Review Summary: I Am Gemini succeeds in being a return to the cohesiveness and attention to detail which has solidified the reputation of Cursive's early years.
The majority of people who follow Cursive to any extent simply want to know this: “Is I Am Gemini
worth my time after Happy Hollow
and Mama, I’m Swollen?
” (I personally enjoy both albums, but I’ve got to face the facts). The answer is, yes, this album is worth your time. Your response is “why?”, and I’ll tell you why.
Cursive has written a perfectly cohesive album, with all of its parts serving a purpose and no extra baggage. I Am Gemini
grows and shifts throughout, drawing the listener in as it progresses. This album is poppy, this album is a bit experimental, this album is heavy and dark, this album has necessary breathing room, this album has true energy
to it, and most importantly this album flows flawlessly from beginning to end. Tim Kasher and company (Matt Maginn, Ted Stevens, and Cully Syminton) along with producer Matt Bayles have succeeded in creating an album which is listened to best as a whole, as a fully realized project which deserves to be thought of as one grandiose piece of work. Every song on I Am Gemini
is a success which merely becomes stronger when viewed in context as part of a larger story.
Listeners should buy this album or at the very least find a copy of the lyrics as presented by Cursive. This is of note because they are written out as a play which fully illuminates the story of I Am Gemini
. I’m going to avoid the story line, however, because that’s something that one should have the opportunity to discover and explore on their own.
“This House Alive”
opens I Am Gemini
. Advertised as an “epic barnstormer”, this song doesn’t have the immediate fury that you might have expected. Rather, it starts off quietly and cautiously. Eventually, some rolling drums come in and set the album in motion. Kasher begins the story in the abstract through the first (still quiet) half of the song before “This House Alive” really engages the listener at the halfway point. Swiftly, the song is in full swing and reaches its defining moment when Kasher sings “There are voices in the dead of night, a child screaming: ‘I Am Gemini’”. As the song comes to a close, we are left with a little breather before the next three songs.
ushers in a trifecta of hard hitting pop-rock songs,. Initially a bit reminiscent of “Art Is Hard”, including those clumsy piano notes so often heard in the Ugly Organ
era, “Warmer, Warmer” evolves quickly before settling into the chorus which is effortlessly "new" Cursive. The breakdown towards the end of this track points to the darker elements of I Am Gemini
that are to follow.
The halfway point and centerpiece of the album is the shortest non-interlude track, “Gemini”
. You know all those adjectives I used to describe this album in the introductory paragraph? “Gemini” has all of them in the course of two and a half minutes. It begins with a lurching guitar, similar to "No News is Bad News" (an ace Cursive b-side) before evolving into a chant of "Gemini" and then suddenly letting loose, culminating in the albums most intense moment thus far.
may prove to be the strongest song on the record, taking the listener on a whirlwind of guitars akin to “Dorothy At Forty” before toying with tempo changes and classic stop-start Cursive. The defining moment of this song will undoubtedly be the defining moment of this entire album for some, with Kasher singing over pounding guitars before exclaiming “oh Gemini, what have you done? What horrid wolves we’ve become” as the song opens up. “This House A Lie”
, an instrumental track, provides the last real breathing room before the final showdown of I Am Gemini
which occurs over the course of “The Cat and Mouse”
and “A Birthday Bash”
“Eulogy For No Name”
, the album closer, takes place years after the rest of the story. It is a fitting and necessary ending, though, as we wouldn’t have had any sense of closure without it. Kasher’s voice on the first half of this track may be a glimpse of what he sounds like years from now, strikingly similar to Johnny Cash at times, but it works. This song has extreme dichotomy in order to tie the album up: the beginning implementing subtle guitars and sparse drumming, the ending being a wall of sound with triumphant vocals which ends as abruptly as it began.
I Am Gemini
, like all Cursive records, provides a whole new palette of sounds for the band to work with while still managing to sound like no one other than Cursive. It is a mix of new and old: discordant piano in the background pointing to The Ugly Organ
, guitar tones sometimes pointing to Happy Hollow
, drumming reminiscent of Mama, I’m Swollen
often rolling through, and a conviction not heard in years. All the while I Am Gemini
, as a whole, shows an again redefined Cursive, sounding like they never have before.
I Am Gemini
comes to us with an amount of thought, care, and attention to detail that is rarely seen, especially for a bands seventh full length album. It is a concept album at its core, but never makes the mistake of putting concept over album. It is complete yet concise.