The Game of Monogamy – Tim Kasher

People mellow with age, and for rock performers that’s usually a bad thing. But on his solo debut Cursive front man Tim Kasher bucks any notion of being a complacent bore.

The most noticeable sonic difference between The Game of Monogamy and any given Cursive release comes in terms of musically being easily accessible. This album has more of a pop flair than Kasher’s past songwriting and is relies less heavily on dissonant wailings. Even “I’m Afraid I’m Gonna Die Here,” a song about the hopelessness of day-to-day routine and perceived failure, is musically upbeat and clap-happy.

Lyrically, Kasher is as emotive and brutally blunt, as always. The theme of the album (somewhat obvious by its title) is the trappings of monogamy. “Cold Love” deals with caving to the suburban doldrums to have some uninspired sex. “There Must Be Something I’ve Lost” is about being unable to let go of the types of memories that hide in high school yearbooks, with sharp-tongued lyrics like, “When I was young I believed in love. But hey, I also believed in God.”

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Human Hearts – Maritime

It’s fitting that a song titled “It’s Casual” opens up Human Hearts, the newest album by indie pop purveyors Maritime. The phrase is an accurate summation of the Milwaukee quartet’s sound. Driven by a wonderfully chunky, slightly lo-fi guitar sound, this collection of songs is easy to swallow and enjoy. Sugar pill music.

Led by singer/guitarist Davey von Bohlen, formerly of The Promise Ring, the band delivers a series of finely crafted pop tunes. The group is aided by some tight production, as exhibited with bouncing stereo sound of “Air Arizona.” For the most part, even when von Bohlen’s lyrics are less then confident and sunny, like on songs like “Annihilation Eyes,” the music backing him remains upbeat. But Maritime isn’t just a one-trick pony, though, showcasing the ability to step off the jaunty path with the slow building of “Faint of Heart.”

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Awesome As Fuck – Green Day

Why does Awesome As Fuck exist?

Green Day already released a great live album — 2005’s Bullet In A Bible — and have only released one studio album since. Considering that album, 2009’s 21st Century Breakdown was by far the worst LP of the band’s career, another live album seems unnecessary beyond recording a few career-spanning cuts yet to be captured live.

And yet, here we are.

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Koffin Kats Feature From The Inlander

SLAP HAPPY

The Koffin Kats are part punk, part rock and part cartoon.

You can thank Beavis and Butt-head for producing the punkabilly-proficient band the Koffin Kats. Without the animated works of Mike Judge, the band might not exist.

“I was watching Beavis and Butt-head one day and saw Reverend Horton Heat on one of the music videos, and just thought the upright bass was cool and that band was cool,” says Vic Victor, the Koffin Kats vocalist and upright bass player. “And one thing led to another.”

Victor had been a punk kid since his preteen days, listening to Bad Religion and the like. But that small glimpse of psychobilly hooked him for the long haul. From there it was a matter of acquiring the defining tool of the sound: an upright bass. But being an aspiring bassist wasn’t exactly easy — or financially practical. So Victor worked a crap job until he could finally secure enough funds to buy his first upright.

After being active in Detroit’s punk scene for years, Victor and guitarist Tommy Koffin formed the Koffin Kats in 2003 and hit the road. The group’s music blends rockabilly flair with Misfits punk-creepiness. Since then, the band has cranked out three albums led by Victor’s bass slapping and deep, smooth vocals drenched in the sinister. Songs like “I Saw My Friend Explode Today” feature dark lyrical images: “I saw my friend explode today right before my eyes. I wear his blood impatiently as if I’m waiting to die. Brain matter chunks upon my face. And the blood in my mouth is an awful taste.” Continue reading

Outside – Tapes ‘n Tapes

The working man’s rock music has always been defined by artists like Bruce Springsteen who sing about the 9-to-5ers. But there’s something to be said for Tapes ‘n Tapes, a band workman-like in the way it consistently churns out solid tunes. If there’s such a thing as a bad Tapes ‘n Tapes song, it’s yet to be released.

However, Outside suffers a bit from being all steak and no sizzle.

The third album from Minneapolis quartet lacks a gang-buster song (or two) for Tapes ‘n Tapes to hang its hat on. The closest thing is “Freak Out,” which captures some of the jaunty swagger that put T’nT on the map. The bouncy guitar work, keyboard blares, and Josh Grier’s vocals, which sound like Isaac Brock filtered through a warmer Midwestern prism, suggest the sly bravado of someone who has his girl wrapped tightly around his finger.

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SXSW ’11 Final Recap

A final look back on the best of my journey to Austin for SXSW. Includes my list of the 10 best acts of the fest. Once again, I oblige you to check it.