Listening to Cursive's newest release, Mama, I'm Swollen, it's hard to remember what the Omaha-based band sounded like a decade ago. Back then, Cursive was a near-emocore band: Singer Tim Kasher would occasionally break into screams over guitar breakdowns, while drums slowly pounded in the background. A few years later, the band added a cellist to its lineup, and 2003's The Ugly Organ was a symphonic pop album. It still retained all the self-directed anger of Kasher's lyrics — "Cut it out / Your self-afflicted pain / Is getting too routine / The crowds are catching on / To the self-afflicted song" ("Art Is Hard") — but the music was moving toward a different sound. But sometime in the last few years, Cursive changed directions yet again. Sure, some things about the band never change, like the members' commitment to indie label Saddle Creek. And Kasher is always a consistent presence: He still speaks more than he sings, sometimes sounding as if he's reading poetry, and his lyrics play on the same theme of artistic confusion ("Every record I've written has left me spinning," he sings on "Mama, I'm Satan"). But the instrumentals are all over the map: In just four minutes, "Mama, I'm Satan" ranges from soft ballad to prog-rock. Cursive has redefined itself, choosing to eschew genres for pure inspiration.
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