Tim Kasher has played the role of the tortured artist better than just about anyone for the past 18 years. For millennials weened on Saddle Creek’s overwhelmingly strong early output, Kasher might be considered a poet laureate. The hyper-literate Kasher has always had a knack for making sense of the emotions that sap us of words, applying a signature wit and snark to an oeuvre of disarmingly honest music that always comes with a unique sonic twist to match the loquacity.
While most easily recognized as the figurehead and driving creative force behind Cursive, Kasher released his first proper solo album, The Game of Monogamy, in 2010, and has now followed it up with Adult Film, a ten-track drift amid the aether of Kasher’s fears, misgivings, and myriad crises — standard fare for the ever prolific songwriter.
The deranged howls and croons that characterize Kasher’s Cursive performances give way to a more reserved vocal style, a resigned delivery that frequently juxtaposes the negative emotions of some of the album’s lyrics against positive melodies and jovial sounds (“Raincloud Is a Raincloud”, “The Willing Cuckold”). While that trick frequently works to his benefit, lead single “Truly Freaking Out” places a lyrical panic attack about death over a bed of comical, bouncing synths that sound pulled from a European children’s show.
Replacing the sweeping orchestral pomp of Monogamy is a scaled-back production that favors vintage combo organs and spooky Farfisas to add some bounce to the album’s tromp and stomp. Kasher’s flare for unexpected instrumentation expresses itself in a subtle way on Adult Film, most notably the theremin on “You Scare Me to Death”, which makes for a perfect accent to the song’s intimate verses, without the sci-fi irony the theremin often take on.
As a whole, the album is certainly not Kasher’s best post-Cursive work. And, while the man’s personality and lyrical prowess will be more than enough for serious fans to sink their teeth into, the album is void of Monogamy’s hooks or the stark immediacy of Cursive’s 2012 effort, I Am Gemini. ”Where’s Your Heart Lie” is a particularly weak point, a dirge of a song that chronicles a couple wallowing through the murk of a failing relationship. While Kasher has spun many a heralded record out of similar content, this track might be where we have to draw the line, the last in a line of diminishing returns. Though not a bad album, Adult Film simply doesn’t hold up as well to the standard Kasher has set for himself over the years.
Essential Tracks: “American Lit”, “The Willing Cuckold”, and “You Scare Me to Death”