Sunday, 27 September 2015

Kurt Vile - b'lieve I'm goin down... Review

In the world of music marketed towards social introverts, Kurt Vile is a beacon of self-awareness and ingenuity.  Lyrically he weaves unusually long winded tapestries, wandering in and out of coherence but never once breaking flow or character, and always extraordinary, as exemplified on the opening track of his stellar 2013 album “Wakin’ on a Pretty Daze”, “Wakin’ on a Pretty Day”, a nine minute odyssey through country, dream pop and folk, that remained transfixing from start to finish. 

While none of the songs on “b’lieve I’m goin down…” reach such lengths, they capture everything that made “Wakin’ on a Pretty Day” fantastic, that being trippy stoner jams accented by Vile’s sharp acoustic guitar finger picking.  “Pretty Pimpin’” opens the album with succinct guitar tones layered over one another, and a driving beat backing up Vile’s usual meandering lyrical landscapes, in which he tackles identity in a confident and often humorous way. 

On “I’m an Outlaw” Vile assumes the personality of a charismatic cowboy, and leads the listener through a four minute desert rock voyage, with banjos taking the reins at the forefront of the instrumental part.  Electric organ provides a twist on the usual formula on a number of songs on this album, but on none is it more prevalent than “Dust Bunnies”, another sleazy pilgrimage into the verdant psyche of the observant stoner.  Vile channels Nick Drake’s intricate acoustic guitar work on the stripped down folky “That’s life, tho (almost hate to say)” as well as “All in a Daze Work” and the haunting “Stand inside”, the only difference being his rich baritone.  He returns to the more ambient aspects of “Smoke Ring for My Halo” on the sombre “Wheelhouse”, tackling religion and belief. 

The tone stays consistent proceeding into “Life Like This”, with a piano providing the basis for the songs instrumental, and the transcendent harmonising electric guitar lines hovering often out of range above it.   The piano returns for the catchy “Lost my head there”, on which Vile laments a recent comedown with the lyrics, “I don’t wanna sit around, walk around all day, I’d much rather levitate”.  However the whimsical waltz time piano of the instrumental “Bad Omens” is without a doubt the highlight of the album for me, with the otherworldly distortion of the guitars floating in a mesmeric haze in the clouds above somehow able to convey more emotion than Viles great lyrics. 

As someone who considers “Wakin’ on a Pretty Daze” to be one of the best albums of 2013, it stuns me to say that Vile has surpassed himself here, proving himself to be at the forefront of indie folk and introspective music in general, and creating an album that is not only worth buying on vinyl, but a contender for my album of the year.     

Charlie McCartney  

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