Top 40 Before 40 Rock Artists - #5 - Cursive

Cursive’s lead singer, Tim Kasher, is probably one of the best songwriters in the history of the world, and it’s a real shame the band isn’t more widely known. Though, I have a feeling that the band is pretty happy with its cult following versus mainstream fame.

The thing I think I most love about Cursive is that their music isn’t about just writing some sappy love songs or hypotheticals or generic pop tunes. Every single song is written from a very personal point of view, has a very specific point to make, and the music and singing plays their roles to enhance the story telling in a way that very few other musicians even come close to doing so well.

Whether the songs are about the troubles of married life (and the subsequent divorce), having kids, inner conflict, introspective regret, ideological problems with the world or even death, I would put the songwriting and music of Cursive up against anything art related in terms of a piece of art that generates an emotional response within the person experiencing the art.

I think Cursive is at their best when they are reflecting upon the hardships that life hands them. In fact, Kasher probably agrees, because in one of their most popular songs “From the Hips”, he writes, “I’m at my best when I’m at my worst.”

My personal favorite song of theirs is “What Have I Done?” even though it seems like an almost overlooked masterpiece. Maybe because it is too specific about Kasher. However, as an adult male, I can totally relate to regret, guilt and a personal feeling that you haven’t accomplished all that you wanted in life.

It may be the most romanticized way to say that your life hasn’t amounted to much regardless of what actions you have taken. It is a very poignant song for 99% of the planet who believe in their own entitled way of life caused by an insatiable ego and led to believe they are destined for greatness.

For those of you who are just joining this list at this point, let me give a quick summary below:

  • In my almost 40 years on this planet, I have had the great pleasure of listening to a lot of music that doesn't make it to the airwaves, and a lot of these bands are some of my absolute favorites.
  • You WILL see some Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame bands on the list too, but for the most part, you are likely going to disagree with this list almost entirely.
  • I am sharing this ranking so that you get some insight into some great bands you may have never heard before AND for a little bit of a personal challenge to myself to rank these bands.

With that said, let's get to #5 on my Top 40 List Before 40:

By Taken by flickr user abbynormy (thanks). - Originally posted at

#5 - Cursive

For anyone familiar with Cursive, you probably already know how amazing they are, but for those of you who read this and have no idea who they are and why they are the 5th best rock band on Earth, well, let me give you a quick rundown.

Back in the late 90’s Cursive seemed to pick up the “emo grunge” reigns from recently disbanded Seattle-based grunge veterans Sunny Day Real Estate. Cursive hails from Nebraska and has no real relation to Sunny Day, but the link between the two bands’ styles is pretty obvious, in my opinion. Melodic and intricate guitars with rising crescendos and singing that ranges from softly introspective to loudly expressive.

Cursive got a bit of notoriety on college radio and through live shows during the early 2000’s when they released one of their most popular albums, Domestica which was an album that detailed Kasher’s personal issues with his ex-wife and trying to maintain some semblance of a family life while also internally desiring to pursue his dream as a rock musician. A passion not well suited for domestic life.

In fact, Kasher wrote and directed a movie based on almost this exact same concept called No Resolution which was released in 2017. A pretty good indie film that sheds some extra light on Kasher’s personal experiences (though it feels more fictionalized than his music).

The songs of Cursive have a more personal connection than anything you hear on the radio, and if you spent time listening to their albums, you would be drawn into the complexities of this world through their lens, which, if you ask me, is exactly the point of making music - tell the world about your deeply personal human experience from your unique point of view.

Kasher is a master at this, and the rest of the band are incredibly in tune with how to showcase the emotion of the songs through music.

If you are looking to listen to a band that you probably have never heard of or you are curious to know more about, then I recommend listening to these albums front to back first:

Also, once you are done with that, go check out their two latest albums Vitriola and Get Fixed. Both of which are excellent. The song "Marigolds" will have you pretty melancholy afterwards.

Similar Artists That I Recommend That Didn't Make The Top 40:

Pixies, Sunny Day Real Estate, The Good Life

<-- Check out #6 on this list or Check out #4 on this list → (Available July 27, 2021)

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