Rudderless, thirtysomething. Jess Ewald

If monogamy is truly a game, Tim Kasher has lost. A lot. In fact, Kasher might as well be the Washington Generals of relationships, a man on such an untouchable losing streak that it's kind of hard to root for him to do anything but fail. For Kasher, to succeed and find love would just seem so, well, wrong.

Brokenhearted and splayed in some poetic gutter is no place for any man to reside, but the Omaha native has always sounded best back to the ground, on the losing end of some Bukowskian bender of women, booze, shame, and sorrow. Kasher has been emotionally purging with a sharp rasp for the better part of 17 years now—first with Midwest emo pioneers Slowdown Virginia, then fronting the bombastic rock act Cursive, followed by a dalliance with slower, introspective side project the Good Life, and now, finally, as a solo artist.

"I don't think I've divulged this before, but the Good Life really would have been [known as] Tim Kasher," he explains over the phone from a tour stop in Texas, "but 10 years ago I didn't really have the confidence or the comfort of doing that. I was just 10 years younger and felt the need to hide behind a band moniker." At peace with his role in music, Kasher fled Los Angeles—his de facto home for the past few years while he attempts a career as a screenwriter between tours—to record in the isolation of Whitefish, Montana. "I wanted to just live somewhere wild," he explains.

It was there that Kasher created conceptual album The Game of Monogamy, his initial offering under his own name, but surely not the first collection of songs to offer an unflinching look at the man behind the mic. Following the lovely symphonic aperitif that opens the album, Kasher launches into "A Grown Man," a song that would read more accurately had it been followed with a question mark. "I am a grown man, I don't know what I want/I don't want a kid and I can't keep being one," yelps Kasher—whose voice has been known to collapse a lung or two during the Domestica days of Cursive. This arrested development is the foundation for Monogamy, where relationships are smoldering remains, youth is a tattered memory, and Kasher finds himself a rudderless thirtysomething fearful to forge ahead and reluctant to continue parading the illusion of youth (read: emo frontman) any further.

Crippled by a midlife crisis a decade too early, Kasher questions his devastating wake and isolationism ("I've never had much family, never had too many friends," he sings on "Strays"), and on "There Must Be Something I've Lost," he embarks on a fact-finding mission of cringing desperation: digging through his high school yearbook to uncover what went wrong. There he unleashes the boorish id tucked away behind his vulnerable facade—the inner Greg Dulli, if you will—as he sings, "I want to have sex with all my old girlfriends again/I swear it's just the familiarity I miss/Aw, fuck it, it's just typical male conquest/You know, the world don't revolve around your prick."

In a strict lyrical context, that might read like a lost Mark Zuckerburg LiveJournal entry, but Kasher has perfected the desperate stammer of a man painted into a corner, whose very faults are what draw listeners even closer. While his back catalog certainly contains plenty of moments of pure, unabashed autobiographical confessionals—Cursive's breakthrough Domestica might as well have been titled Tim Kasher Gets Divorced and Writes Some Sad Songs About It—he plays it close to the vest this time around, never quite admitting the identity of the restless thirtysomething protagonist of Monogamy.

"This often happens with records I do," Kasher explains when discussing the tendency of listeners, and writers, to play armchair psychiatrist and insert the singer into each and every one of his songs. "I put them out there and have a good sense of what they're really about, but then I get the opportunity to hear others be like, 'I think this is what's wrong with you' or 'These are your issues,' and I'm like, 'Oh wow, what a breakthrough!'"

This smudged line between liner notes and reality only bolsters the heart of Monogamy. Because once the dust settles and Kasher tumbles off his soapbox, you'd hate for all these songs to actually be about him. No man deserves to suffer this much. recommended