If ever there was a suitable title and concept for Tim Kasher's first truly solo album, The Game of Monogamy is well and truly it. His previous work with Cursive and The Good Life have yielded some extraordinarily emotional, guttural work over the years (give The Good Life's Help Wanted Nights a spin for some excellent bleeding-heart country music), but The Game of Monogamy is remarkably measured, varied and expansive. Daubing from an orchestral palette jars at times with Kasher's rough rasp, but with time it becomes a very human conduit in a lush, almost pompous sound.
Chunky as it is, the titular concept is grand enough to warrant the indulgence of the extra instrumentation. We hear strings, horns, woodwinds and all manner of compositional flourishes that rather sound like they could have been touched by Andrew Lloyd Webber (honest), the brilliantly overblown scale of The Prodigal Husband shining as a particularly strong example. Similarly, I'm Afraid I'm Gonna Die Here features a tripping horn section and the same anthemic tendencies as The Decemberists. It shrieks rock bombast, and then whispers over flute countermelodies before exciting the whole thing again and building to wonderful climax. It also features a line as hilariously perfect as "I got a job writing obits - a professional writer at last!", which immediately elevates it beyond the realm of most competition.
From the outset, though, Kasher's willingness to lay his life bare (and the ability to do so without sounding morose or self-pitying) is at the centre of the record. After the opening harp-led Overture, the recitative approach of A Grown Man proves exceptionally raw. Kasher then juxtaposes it with a gusto-riddled gospel rock acceleration to accentuate the theme of encroaching manliness, proving his knowledge and use of dynamics is sympathetic to his subject. He has, quietly, become a consummate composer.
The overall surprise-factor of The Game of Monogamy may well alert a new legion of fans to Kasher's presence, and that's no bad thing. It may also confuse anyone who's familiar with him, but once it's established that this is simultaneously one of his most emotionally ragged and musically astute recordings there's nothing left to do but just admire his chutzpah. An overblown, almost absurdly confident and superbly affecting record.