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+ Various Artists - Tibetan And Bhutanese Instrumental And Folk Music, Volume 2
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+ Calexico - Garden Ruin (Review #2)
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+ The Glass Family - Sleep Inside This Wheel
+ Various Artists - Songs For Sixty Five Roses
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The Good Life
Black Out
Saddle Creek

And you thought Tim Kasher sounded fragile when his crackling whisper fronted Cursive. Coupled with Cursive's six-string crunch, Kasher's wavering warble seemed to fit — both were susceptible to fits of anger and sadness that might disappear even before they really began. Kasher's side project, The Good Life, however, indulges his tortured emotings to the extreme. Can one man really feel this sorry for himself?

It's not just that Kasher sounds tearful with every note he sings. It's his lyrics, where he's a saint continuously wronged. "I'm not searching for self-improvement," he sighs on "The Beaten Path," one of Black Out's stronger cuts. Then he utters the unforgivable line, "Here and there I come across an old acquaintance/ Some old flame, some old burn victim." In the world of The Good Life, this is optimistic.

The pessimistic cuts take the term "lovesick" literally. "Some Bullshit Escape" wraps with the diminutive singer cooing, "I don't know where you are/ I bet I'll never find you out/ There's a lot of that goin' 'round." In Cursive his lyrics were just as defeatist, but the backing music seethed with a hostility that allowed his musings to feel justified. The sparse, flexible arrangements on Black Out make his words, which wear out their welcome after only a handful of tracks, the main attraction.

The backing music can be arresting, though. Unobtrusive electronic flourishes appear on occasion, as do cellos, accordions, vibraphones and an oboe. Even when layers of multiple instruments coat the basic melodies, the songs still have room to breathe. The music is masterfully arranged — subtle, but with a powerful presence.

What ultimately defeats this album is Kasher himself. A starkly beautiful cut like "After O'Rourke's, 2:10 a.m.," which hides a mournful slide guitar deep in the background, normally would kill on its own. But when he throws it into a track listing that includes a song called "I Am an Island" (no shit!), it's obvious that he's just crying wolf. With a little variety this album could be a real monster, but Tim Kasher would rather establish himself as a modern-day Job.

by Yancey Strickler

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