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Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
Halcyon Digest
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Fat Possum
Good Life
Album of the Year
Saddle Creek Records

Rating: 8/10 ?

October 1, 2004
So I began writing this review a few weeks ago, on the brink of crying from a string of depressing days. It seemed only fitting to let this record affect me in that state. While married, there is still some guilt that's hard to move beyond, especially when already saddened by the world. Some regrets remain about how I treated ex-loves, likes, flings and lonesome companions. Thoughts like these make me think of Tim Kasher, that in too much quiet, the faintest sounds of kissing could eat us both alive.

Hearing his lyrics, and knowing that there is usually a She attached to the other end of his crushing obsession, I begin to wonder that if there was ever someone in the shadows of my life, hurting while I propelled myself through defense mechanism after defense mechanism, needing to move on - doing whatever destructive, reactive things it took to lift myself out of the loneliness. Some of my ways weren't exactly nice, but somehow they were reasonable because they got me through. Even now, I am sorry, and sorry is a good place to start for Album of the Year.

While the Lovers Need Lawyers EP has yet to leave my CD player even once since I first reviewed it - its jolly exterior and wrenching catharsis play to every one of my shifting sensibilities; I'd almost be willing to bump my nine-out-of-ten rating up to a perfect score if I weren't so self-conscious about giving those out - the follow-up full length seems chronologically out of place. It takes a large, noticeable step back, toward the mire of admitted depression. If the order of the Good Life's albums is meant to follow a distinct path from acoustic wailing, electronic introspection, a mingling of the two in greater confidence and a final, bitter, poppy reemergence, Album of the Year would be third on that list with the EP showing later signs of healing. Yet, in formal release, the order is reversed, but all of the steps we need to take are finally disclosed as a full picture. While, frankly, it is not as immediately brilliant and arresting as their earlier EP, it unfolds in manners and emotions that needed to be shown.

Album of the Year is a reflection of its title track, despite the easy tongue-in-cheek self-referencing. In it, an artist and poet dedicates what would be his finest contribution, his "Album of the Year," to a swept up, overwhelming love that ends up leaving him. Its inevitability sets the tone of the album, and the songs that grace Album of the Year hang on for the patient listener, erupting and emptying in unexpected places with remarkable hooks and honest, heartened insight.

Drawing from the stark Cureisms of their first album, Novena on a Nocturn and the encompassing loops of Black Out, but with very few hints to the lightness apparent in Lovers Need Lawyers, the album has many of the same themes Kasher and crew have come to be known for. That's not to say Album of the Year is a simple rehashing - it is not. It marks the evolution of their sound, as well as their progress on the road to healing. The steps may be small and deliberate, and the stages clearly marked, but they are present and grounded.

What results is a human, barbed, multifaceted affair, where a skilled eloquence shines through, saying everything you always wanted to say in grand, cinematic gestures. The Good Life lets you get carried away in your own depths by expressing theirs - this is Album of the Year's best quality.

The songs have a way of speaking to you. "Under a Honeymoon," with its breathy, high-pitched romanticism is fittingly divertive, bursting from the pain it so maddeningly expected. The track, inspired by the overtures of Black Out, is so ripe that it falls and bursts achingly upon impact. "Notes in His Pockets," characterized first by hyperactive keys, sets up for an edgy sort of pop. Like the Lovers Need Lawyers EP, its sharp lyrical points sneak in under unassuming melody.

In fact, the appearance of "Lovers Need Lawyers" on the album shows the great vision the Good Life is capable of, and just how mature they've gotten as a project. Its snarky lyrics hiding under hapless pop, it is contagious and witty on an innumerable amount of levels, but beyond that, it moves the Good Life from its status as Cursive Side Project to Needful Statement. It shows they are a band of promise, carrying a torch for honesty that is more poignant in the form of backhanded jabs.

While characteristically wounded, Album of the Year is marked by a solid resolve and the final, most cynical sentiments of anger that come before eventual acceptance. It encompasses a wash of emotions, each frustratingly - and fittingly - complex when felt. Artful, symbolic and spare, whether actually compiled before or after Lovers Need Lawyers, it is evidence of a band that has come into its own.

Reviewed by Sarah Peters
A former music editor and staff writer for LAS, Sarah Peters recently disappeared. Perhaps one day she will surface again, who knows.

See other reviews by Sarah Peters



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