Here’s what you need to know about The Good Life’s debut album Novena on a Nocturn: it was recorded and released in 2000 – the same year that TGL lead vocalist Tim Kasher’s “other” band Cursive released Domestica.
As previously documented, Domestica is a concept record about divorce. So too is Novena. It’s no coincidence that Kasher released both records at the turn of the millenium, in direct response to his divorce from his first wife.
To borrow a phrase, this ‘strikes a chord’ with me, as Kasher was the same age as I am now when he got divorced the first time. Why people ever get married this early in life is beyond me, but this probably isn’t the proper forum for that conversation.
The two records play off of each other, then. Domestica is considerably more angry (see opener “The Casualty”), while Novena plays to the singer-songwriter’s depression. The word ‘nocturn’ refers to a Catholic prayer devotion lasting 9 days, a reference to the album’s 9 songs.
The story that plays out over its 9 tracks is considerably more downtrodden than on Domestica. Since Kasher’s Good Life project focuses more on the acoustic- and occasionally keyboard-driven tunes, it’s a lot more experimental than its Cursive counterpart, with whirring piano effects and electronic drums.
And because it harps on the sadness stage of grief, some of these songs are quite difficult to listen to; “What We Fall For When We’re Already Down” is a conversation from the perspective of a son telling his mother he is a “failure” and a “glorious mess.”
Presumably, this conversation was inspired by real life events, though not necessarily by Kasher himself. Though traumatic, the throes of grief can be a time of great artistic breakthroughs. This is the second verse of that song:
Momma, I tried
A thousand times
I’m frozen to the core
Your son is a glorious mess
Who wrecks anything he adores
But deep in his center he swears
There’s a candle just waiting to burn
Later, Kasher uses the “thousand times” refrain and adds: “The pieces wouldn’t fit.”
No divorce is typical, but at the very least, through Kasher’s arduous unraveling of a relationship, we have the tremendous Domestica and this album. And though Novena pales in comparison, what with its time spent toiling in the doldrums, its effort as half of 18 recorded tracks written to reconcile one man’s divorce is to be appreciated.
From Novena on a Nocturn, this is “What We Fall For When We’re Already Down” –
Standout tracks: “The Moon Red Handed” and “What We Fall For When We’re Already Down”
Weakest track: “An Acquaintance Strikes a Chord”
RIYL: Cursive, Commander Venus, Bright Eyes, Neva Dinova (anything Saddle Creek really), Kevin Devine. Singer-songwriters, acoustic-driven tunes.