I remember the first time I heard The Good Life's Album of the Year, and each time I return to it after an absence the blurry memories return. Kenneth* and I were on a drive, and he told me he had a new album that he was sure I would love. Our time together was often filled with him presenting a new piece of music (whether by someone else or of his own creation) that would cause me to become more impassioned and further idealize him. From the moment “Album of the Year” came on, I was no less than under the spell of Tim Kasher. Cursive’s music was violent and powerful, but I had never heard his voice gently crooning against an acoustic backdrop before. We stopped talking altogether when “Inmates” came on. I was so moved by it I wept, and he kept his hand on my thigh the whole nine minutes.
Writer’s note: *name changed, because dude probably wouldn’t appreciate that.
Play One: The Good Life does an excellent job of letting not just the lyrics but also the music take the listener on their emotional rollercoaster in this song. It starts softly and naked, gaining volumes as the deceptions are unraveled. The lyrics become more wry and resistant, and the echoing accompaniment helps to build tension underneath the main melodic line (can you tell I’m currently taking Music Appreciation?). By the time Kasher’s voice enters around four minutes, you’re just waiting for things to blow up, and that tension is answered with loud, throbbing guitar and suggestions of how to get the hell out of town around five minutes in. From there, the next four minutes are alternating states of elevated passion and quiet contemplation. Bring on the mixed feelings of self-loathing and self-empowerment. I’m ready.
Play Eleven: Hey, the lyric “50 ways to get lost” used to be my friend Allison’s AIM headline. Does anyone use AIM anymore? It makes me laugh when I log on there and see all of the usernames my friends and I had picked out when we were pre-teens and our parents bought desktop computers for us to sneak on to at night and chat. A/S/L?
Play Twenty: I’m trying to write a staff email and my mind is severely wandering. I don’t know if it’s the caffeine or the nostalgia. If I turn the song off so that I can concentrate, but don’t listen to anything else, is that cheating? Probably. It’s obvious I’m going to get very little done today.
Play Twenty-Four: I’ve succumbed to my pathetic woe. I’m lying on the floor singing along.
Play Thirty: I decided I just needed a shower to pick myself up. I set the speaker down by the door and left it cracked open. It might have been just the mood refresher I needed, because singing along in the acoustics of the shower made me feel like I’m a really, really good singer.
Play Thirty-Two: Screaming “I can’t be your prisoner!” while blowdrying my hair was also really gratifying.
Play Forty: I’m feeling a little more ambivalent now, which I guess in some ways is the goal of this song. You’ll always be in love, but you can’t let your ex hold you prisoner! You need to let go. I have been trying.
Play Forty-Seven: I just wrote a REAAALLLLY long paragraph basically detailing everything that went wrong in my last relationship, gritty details included. Then I deleted it. Boo, no fun, I know.
Play Fifty-Five: My brain hurts. My throat is getting kind of rough too. This isn’t the 74-play sing-along challenge, Mylynda! Stop self-destructing!
Play Fifty-Seven: Did the verses reverse order? I swear the one part about the airport was before the other part…
Play Sixty: I should have known this was going to make me feel effing insane. When I first considered doing it, I calculated how long this challenge would take me. The song is roughly nine minutes, and I’d be listening to it 74 times. Guess what? 9x74 = 666!
Play Sixty-Three: Desperately considering breaking up the monotony with listening to another version I have with only Kasher on vocals. He slightly changes the lyrics in three or four places. I remember I saw him play it live in Nebraska and the whole crowd was swooning and crooning in unison, and he winked when we all sang the wrong lyrics as he went on with the altered ones.
Play Sixty-Five: I once wanted to name my first-born child Kasher, boy or girl. Would that have made me an insufferable hipster?
Play Sixty-Six: There are so many lyrics to love in this song. “Did you act out as a child? Were you always crying wolf? Attention starved, you tried too hard, just to get someone to look. Now you’re the wolf in secondhand clothing, I’m the sheep in a pleated skirt.”
Play Sixty-Eight: “It’s that I recognize, your off-white lies, still I lie beside you and that’s what really hurts.”
Play Seventy-Two: Shouting: “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.” I’m a lyrics woman all the way, and you’re my Nebraskan messiah, Kasher.
Play Seventy-Four: This is where I say I cannot believe that it’s over, right? Well, that’s a lie; in actuality I cannot believe this didn’t end about five hours ago. This was definitely the most time I’ve ever devoted to one writing project, and the writing wasn’t even that great (it’s OK, I can admit it).
Verdict: There’s no denying “Inmates” is a seriously powerful song. The craziest thing is that through all of the emotions it stirred up in me today – all of the emotions it always stirs and heightens – I still want to listen to it. I’ll probably put it on for a play or two tomorrow, and it never gets passed over for more than a month. It never will. It’s hard to deny a powerful, introspective song such as this.
In conclusion, though I strongly discourage listening to this song more than 10 times in a row unless you’re planning a murder-suicide of your ex-lover, “Inmates” receives a resounding…