Posted on August 15th, 2015 (12:00 pm) by Justin Goodman

Tim Kasher, much like his mournful, bright-eyed friend Conor Oberst, is haunted by his memories. He’s the type of musician to write 3 different albums for his 2 bands because of 1 divorce (Cursive’s 2000 Domestica, and The Good Life’s 2000 Novena on a Nocturne and 2002 Black Out). This can come across as melodramatic – Kasher, I think, is not free of the romantic, melancholic obsessions Conor Oberst experiences – even if heartfelt. Consider that Desaparecidos, one of Oberst’s several bands, turned sharply into politics this year with Payola. If that is the evolution of an artist who began writing, as Sasha Frere-Jones of the New Yorker called, “overstuffed couplets call[ing] to mind late-night dorm-room epiphanies,” what does Everybody's Coming Down hold in store?

It’s closer to Slowpoke to Slowbro, really. Bigger, better, but not altogether different. That’s not a bad thing. Lana Del Rey has recently reshown she’s very successful at such incrementalism. But the boozy, luridly electric acoustics of Everybody's Coming Down gives off the feeling of a return, especially since this is their first album since the ripple-less Help Wanted Nights in 2007. It’s a return to the rounded sound of Album of the Year, while branching out towards jazz (“The Troubadour’s Green Room”), hard rock (“Holy Shit”), and punkish rock (“Flotsam Locked in a Groove”) - three consecutive songs, all diverse and flowing. Even if you find Kasher’s voice too whiny and uniform throughout, something initially very hard to ignore, these are well-crafted tracks.

Anyway, the more thematic and musical return is its leitmotif. A hi-hat rattling in 4/4, a quivering guitar dragging through the rhythm, while “timid ghosts in the garden lurk about;” Halfway through, at “Happy Hour,” the notes are inverted towards nostalgia, though wordless; the final, woeful inversion that bends back into its original shape with “I am ashamed of everything, all the love that I’ve abandoned.” The day that Kasher constructs is also the arc of relationships and, with more originality in subject matter than he’s shown before, the story of a vain artist who suffers from existential angst over how “all this will end.” “Every chardonnay of every weekend getaway has to turned to piss trinkling in the reservoir” – including his career, and possibly what little legacy he’s accrued.

There are artists who deal with, to use one of the track titles, “How Small We Are” in a more remarkably direct way. The eponymous track on Neutral Milk Hotel’s In an Aeroplane over the Sea, for instance, and its beautifully succinct line, “Can’t believe how strange it is to be anything at all.” It helps that Jeff Mangum, unlike Kasher, isn’t addicted to storytelling. A holistic approach can leave an album lacking individually, especially if it’s as completely structured and written as Everybody's Coming Down. I’m struck with the disappointment of an art lover leaning over a microscope to see the small cracks of time on a favorite painting.

Track List:

  1. 7 in the Morning
  2. Everybody
  3. The Troubadour's Green Room
  4. Holy Shit
  5. Flotsam Locked in a Groove
  6. Forever Coming Down
  7. Happy Hour
  8. Diving Bell
  9. Skeleton Song
  10. How Small We Are
  11. Ad Nausea
  12. Midnight is Upon Us
The Good Life
Purchase at: Amazon | eMusic

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