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And on the stunning, nearly 10-minute "Inmates," Kasher sinks into a secondary role, turning the lead vocals over to now-former Good Life member Jiha Lee. Her sweet-but-determined delivery -- solo at first; Kasher makes it a duet a third of the way in -- engages in that conversation, the one in which the accusations and armchair psychoanalyses fly back and forth before one party decides to leave once and for all. "What are we still doing here, so desperate for company?/ There's a Greyhound on Jackson Street, there's an airport in Council Bluffs/Hell, there's a car in the driveway/Fifty ways to get lost," she belts as the backing guitar-fueled dynamics flit between demure and assertive, mirroring the flow and tone of the lyrics. Then, a few songs later, she's history -- moved on to a new lover -- and he's left to contemplate his loss as "Two Years This Month" fades away. The end.
Here's the thing about Album of the Year, though, according to Kasher: It's a story. Like they teach you in English 101, you should never take the narrator's voice for that of the author, right? After all, Johnny Cash never really shot a man in Reno just to watch him die. But he lived close enough to the dark side to be able to write that with conviction. Similarly, Kasher has infused Album with enough bits and pieces of reality drawn from his metaphorically bloodstained notebooks -- uncensored ruminations on his messy divorce, failed relationships, and overboard boozing, which, he prays, will never be read by any eyes but his own -- to earn those frantic phone calls from ex-lovers.
"It's fiction," Kasher insists of the work he puts out for public consumption. "I never met anyone by throwing up in the ladies' room stall, but it's symbolic of the way a relationship starts. That's what writing is, you know? I use tons of specifics and I write from what I know, and so from there you get a fictionalized, complete story of a lot of different things you've gone through."
At the same time, admitting (or claiming?) that it's fiction opens a can of worms from the fan end of the spectrum. "Sometimes people, upon hearing that my songs are just stories, they get really upset. Like I've misled them somehow. They're like, 'Oh, I thought this was all nonfiction,' and I've never told anyone that it was. But I never lie -- I never try to conjure up feelings or imagine what it's like to be this or that. I'm always writing from what I see or what I go through, because if not . . . I mean . . . people can write any way they want, but for me personally, I absolutely have to come from somewhere inside of myself. Otherwise it will come off as contrived."
When pressed about performing songs from Album of the Year live on the current tour, though, Kasher cops to enough uneasiness playing these tunes in front of people that he tips his hand as to just how genuine and revealing they might be.
"It's always great when the crowd is really quiet and everyone seems to be really focused on it, but the more they're focused on what I'm singing the weirder it gets for me. I'm usually up there like, 'Oh God, will someone please break a glass or something!'"
Still, with the Good Life being his primary outlet now and for the foreseeable future -- Cursive's gone on an indefinite hiatus and Kasher's coy about stating unequivocally that the band is through -- he's got plenty of time and opportunity to make peace with his work. Or maybe he doesn't want to.
"I've always been into discomfort, even my own -- it's something I've been doing since I was 16 and starting out in bands. I used to be terrible about it, and I guess I've matured some. But I'm still really into making other people uncomfortable."