Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Album Review: Kurt Vile - Wakin On A Pretty Daze

Album Rating: A-
There seems to be an almost irrepressible human need to scrutinise the new and compare it to the old. We’re always searching for influences and similarities and we have a nagging, awkward desire to label someone “the new [insert classic artist].” But sometimes, something comes along which reminds us of the beauty of simplicity, and that rather than dissecting things we should enjoy them in a primal, fundamental way. It’s certainly a view which Kurt Vile welcomes, and when you listen to Wakin on a Pretty Daze, it’s easy to see why. Rather than pin-pointing his influences he’s keen to remind us that “everything’s an influence,” and that music sometimes thrives most when it lives and breathes and exists because of everything around it. The lush, uncomplicated melodies and soft diction which dominate Wakin on a Pretty Daze embody the organic simplicity Vile aims for, and it succeeds largely on this premise.

Throughout his short but blossoming musical journey Kurt Vile has been nothing if not ambitious. The self-confidence which is reflected in the longer tracks here is indicative of his humble beginnings, as he boldly plunged headlong into a solo career even when his first project was showing great promise. Emerging following the debut release of indie outfit The War on Drugs, Vile both opened for them at concerts and then joined the band for the main event, a move which rapidly led to his emergence as a solo artist. It was a bold move without question, but it was one which makes the eight minute tracks on Wakin on a Pretty Daze less a surprise and more an inevitability. Few men would have the confidence to leave a band which was showing signs of great things to come, but then even fewer men craft 10 minute relaxed epics consisting of little more than simple chord progressions, laid-back vocals and tight, serene instrumentals. The jovial title track which opens the album and the pensive “Too Hard” characterise this approach beautifully, and demonstrate an uncanny ability to amble and wander without losing focus or allowing a song to outstay its welcome.

But then aren't all of these longer tracks cumbersome and over-bearing, I hear you ask? Well no, thankfully they’re not. As and when appropriate, Kurt Vile flexes his pop muscle and shows he can produce hook-laden, concise packages with relative ease. The combination of "Pure Pain" and "Snowflakes Are Dancing" not only serve to break up the longer moments but to add toe-tapping variety to the 70+ minute voyage which never feels its length.

Bubbling beneath the surface on many of the efforts here are subtle, unassuming psychedelic electronics which add both depth and layers. Although at times they harken back to the days of the 13th Floor elevators and their influential debut album, they're much more reserved in their nature and feel more textured and dreamy than spaced out and immediate. What's more, rather than howling over the effects like the narcotised Roky Erickson, Vile instead complements them with his wistful drawl, resulting in truly blissful melodies.

Wakin on a Pretty Daze is a particularly self-assured release from a man who has never been short of confidence, and he fully embraces the power of simplicity and subtlety - something which continues to set Kurt Vile apart from his peers.



1. Wakin On A Pretty Day
2. KV Crimes
3. Was All Talk
4. Girl Called Alex
5. Never Run Away
6. Pure Pain
7. Too Hard
8. Shame Chamber
9. Snowflakes Are Dancing
10. Air Bud
11. Goldtone

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