words by Jacob Zlomke
For Tim Kasher, if anything exists between life and death, there is art and love.
On his second solo album, Adult Film, Kasher concerns himself with it all: art and love, life and death. From the bouncing synths of the record’s first single, “Truly Freaking Out,” to the haunted theremin and ghostly whispers of “You Scare Me to Death,” a twisted take on settling down for a life in the suburbs (“where we’ll be murdered”), Kasher boldly faces creativity, the state of art, the shadow of death and stagnant relationships.
Kasher’s no stranger to such subject matter: These are issues that have been addressed repeatedly on Cursive and The Good Life albums, on which he plays a leading role. But where Mama, I’m Swollen questioned how to age, both as a person and as an artist, and myriad songs by both bands wonder how to work a successful relationship, Adult Film has very few questions to pose.
The album finds Kasher at his most self-conscious, a feat for the man who wrote entire albums ostensibly based on his own divorce, but also at his most comfortable. He’s not throwing his voice into the ether looking for answers. These songs are the answers.
Kasher has always been a songwriter with sarcastic wit and tender honesty, and on Adult Film, he swings frantically between the two poles. He does so to the extent of emotional whiplash, not relegating either tone to separate tracks or even stanzas. On “The Willing Cuckold,” he sings, “Honestly, honestly, I don’t care who you’re out with,” with a defeated earnestness and then, dryly, “I don’t need to be the first to know, no matter how noble it makes you feel.”
He seems so sure of himself, so sure of both his faults and successes, that Adult Film creates a strange sympathetic connection between Kasher and the listener. He digs into himself deeper than most people would ever dare, and we get to see every layer — the sneering mockery of “American Lit,” the album’s opener, all the way to the album’s final track, “A Lullaby, sort of,” with its soft ruminations on death, where Kasher concludes that, while life is full of both heartbreak and joy, “I don’t regret the honey or the sting.”
Despite its pessimistic subject matter, Adult Film may represent Kasher’s most pop-minded release. While there are moments of near-tuneless vocal meandering, they’re often juxtaposed with pop melodies.
Adult Film was released on Oct. 8 by Saddle Creek Records. Listen to the full review below:
Jacob Zlomke is a Hear Nebraska editorial intern. He almost found a way to compare this album to Breaking Bad. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.