Kurt Vile | Wakin’ on a Pretty Daze (Matador Ltd.)

Kurt-Vile Walkin_75

Vile has been cranking out great music with each release and doesn’t show any signs of slowing down.

On his latest release, Wakin’ on a Pretty Daze, Philadelphia’s Kurt Vile continues on his path of sunny, fuzzed-out space pop that he performs so well on 2011’s excellent Smoke Ring for My Halo. Ever prolific, this is his sixth solo LP released since 2008, and coupled with his two outstanding albums with his other band, War on Drugs, this is his eighth full LP in six years, not to mention multiple EPs over the last few years. You would expect some sort of burnout or diminished returns with that kind of output; thankfully there is nothing to worry about here as this is his strongest solo effort to date.

As with Smoke, his songs are still mostly lyrically introspective; however, he seems to reach deeper into his soul here, lamenting things but not in a way that he feels lose or hurt. This is more his philosophy, his manifesto on life. Several songs are about his struggle with being away from his love but knowing it’s what he has to do, and he tries to be the best he can while away. “Pure Pain” and “Too Hard” are perfect examples of this. In both, he’s singing to his love and telling her he wants her, and his heart belongs to her, but he’s on the road.

Musically, Wakin’ is definitely the stronger of the two releases. The structure is much looser, almost jam-like. He greatly extends the length of many of the songs, and it really adds to the airy feel of the whole album. You can easily tell his influences here were early ’70s California country rock as well as darker synth pop from the 1980s. This seemingly strange combo creates a fantastic sound that is reminiscent of his work on the more keyboard forward sound of War On Drugs, yet is wholly different. The interplay between his acoustic guitar and his reverb soaked electric guitar is quite wonderful. They play off one another at times and complement one another. Sometimes one finishes the others’ bar and just keeps going. The album is bookended by two sprawling tracks that both clock in nine plus minutes, but neither ever feel meandering or plot-less. “Goldtone,” in particular, is wonderful in its, well, golden tone and the last few minutes of the song where it crescendos. Both showcase this much more loose structure where he’s not afraid to open up and explore.

It’s nice to see DIY artists such as Vile make it and continue to make great music. Sadly, so many have one, maybe two, albums that are decent before running out of ideas and steam. Vile has been cranking out great music with each release and doesn’t show any signs of slowing down, which is a great thing. I hope to see more of him in the years to come, as he has a lot to offer us. | Michael Koehler

Standout tracks: Walkin’ On a Pretty Day, KV Crimes, Girl Called Alex, Pure Pain, Too Hard, Goldtone

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