Kurt Vile | b’lieve i’m goin down… (Matador)

BlieveimgoindownOverall, this is a focused but chilled out album that grows with each listen.

 

 

 

Over the last eight years, Philadelphia’s Kurt Vile has steadily built up a loyal fan base through ever-increasingly brilliant lo-fi albums, mostly of observation topics. Musically, he ranges from raging jams to the occasional chilled out acoustic numbers. His 2013 release, Walkin on a Pretty Daze, garnered almost unanimous critical acclaim, with his fuzzed-out blend of acoustic and electric tracks basically about his life at the time. It was a continuation of the trend he had been building of a more electrical sound that was not overly dissimilar to his former bandmate Adam Granduciel’s War on Drugs.

With 2015’s b’lieve i’m goin down…, Vile takes a step back, at least stylistically. b’lieve is a different kind of album; it’s much more acoustically driven. (That isn’t a knock, mind you.) Gone are the longer, spaced-out jams drenched in a haze of fuzz and smoke, replaced with more intricate acoustic compositions that weave in and out of Vile’s observational lyrics. Most of the album is similar to “Too Hard” from Walkin or “Runner Up” and “Smoke Ring…” from Smoke Ring for My Halo.

Not to say he doesn’t plug in and jam; he still does, but it’s more sporadic and used more to add emphasis and texture rather than set the tone, as on “Life Like This.” Included more on b’lieve is the use of piano/keyboards, with “Lost My Head There” a prime example. It’s a piano-driven track that starts out sounding like it belongs somewhere in the 1970s, and morphs into something a little spacier, when other keys start drifting in, turning it much more serene. Overall, b’lieve is a focused but chilled-out album that grows with each listen.

Vile has been building and building with each release, adding more layers to his sound. He doesn’t stop here, just takes a more calculated approach to it. Each album is like taking a look into his life at the time: things he’s doing, his people, or something that is going on in his world. It makes for an easy but fascinating listen. b’lieve i’m goin down… will probably get lumped into that ambiguous category of a “grower” album, but it really is true here. My first couple listens proved a bit tough, as I found myself wondering if the songwriter had lost his mind. But once you sit and just listen and absorb, you’ll realize that this belongs up there with anything else he’s released. B | Michael Koehler

Standout tracks: “That’s Life, Tho” “Wheelhouse” “Life Like This” “Lost My Head There”

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