Posted on April 11th, 2013 (7:00 am) by H. William Davis

After four previous releases on his own along with his work in The War On Drugs, there's been enough analysis to conclude there are certain constants associated with Kurt Vile. Wakin' On A Pretty Daze, Vile's new studio album, has brought a lot of this analysis to a head again. Yes, there are elements of Lou Reed and Neil Young and Bob Dylan. Yes, Vile obviously leans a lot on a classic rock cannon. Yes, this is the same ole Kurt Vile we're speaking about here; these things are known. While most put emphasis on the constants in the Kurt Vile strategy, little attention is payed to the variables. While Smoke Ring For My Halo seemed to rely on quick, successive jabs of genius rolling out from the smokey lingering notes of Vile's melodies; Wakin' On A Pretty Daze congeals those same moments into grandiose rumblings. Where Smoke Ring was darkly filtered in its own, subterranean way, Wakin' On A Pretty Daze is external, open, and breathing. However, although Wakin' On A Pretty Daze sounds brighter, the content is still relatively dark. It encapsulates the introspective nature of springtime, the human mind freed from the constraints of winter's bodily discomfort.

Vile's Lo-Fi ambitions have seemed to fade away throughout the years, leaving behind something clean, crisp, and polished but still tinted with Vile's ode's to unambition charged with lackadaisical energy. Vile addresses his own strangeness quizzically on "Air Bud," giving the song more room, both figuratively and literally. Vile's sonic freedom on Wakin' On A Pretty Daze allows his songs to open up and bloom. There is instantly a moment where one thinks, yes, this is what Kurt Vile sounds like, but actually compared side by side to the tight, compact arrangements of Smoke Ring For My Halo shows that a lot is added in this space, not just random noodling and effects. Yes, in a sense it boils down to a few more "Yeah Yeah"s, a few more bits of wandering instrumentation, a few more "Ooh Baby"s, but this is in no way trivial. The expansiveness of Vile's composition is only trivial if you consider the world having a few more hours of daylight trivial. Wakin' On A Pretty Daze is about more light, more time, more accomplishments and more incidental encounters along the way. One should relish every minute of this album while they have it.

Of course, with longer, more complex songs, there are fewer that stick in your brain the way Smoke Ring For My Halo's did. This is not to say that Vile's songs are not memorable - far from it. Instead, long passages of repetitious chords and choral echoing lodge their way into one's cerebrum, populating the melody even if the actual song title escapes memory. There is not one moment of lost or wasted time on Wakin' On A Pretty Daze. Although the songs are long, they do not drag under slow, wailing composition.

On "Was All Talk" Vile proves that he can keep up a fast paced, elevated tune for a whole twelve minutes, not once losing stamina or intrigue. Te psychedelia-infused, whistle-mimicking organ interludes on "Girl Called Alex" prove almost cheerful. Vile even gets a little self-referential on "Goldtone," calling himself out with: "Sometimes when I get in the zone / You'd think I was stoned / But I never as they say / Touch the stuff." It's Vile's best effort to directly call out and accept all the stoner rock cliches he's accumulated through the years while still being earnest enough to gracefully rebuff the notoriety. These moments of self awareness on Wakin' On A Pretty Daze reveal the intelligence of Vile, if not just in songwriting then in general lyricism. It doesn't hurt that "Goldtone" embodies its name with the most sun-drenched of atmosphere on the album backed by a wavering, hazy delivery style. Around the fourteen minute mark of seventeen minute opus Vile breaks it all down into a shimmering reflection of slightly asychronistic guitar riffs, stimulating and simulating harmony and composition with such fury until the song collapses into a sanctimonious organ note that closes the album.

Wakin' On A Pretty Daze, after much consideration, feels like the album Kurt Vile was born to make. At times, it feels almost flawless, even if that is just Vile's way of masking his few weakness with grace. Two years ago Smoke Ring For My Halo seemed like the pinnacle of the Kurt Vile ideal. The slow, murky rock comprising that album seemed to fit Vile like a glow, just as Wakin' On A Pretty Daze does now. While a gem on its own, Wakin' On A Pretty Daze proves Vile isn't about to get stuck in this reputation. All of Vile's work has the ability to stand on its own, feeling separate and full, but still united invisibly by one intangible element. That element is Vile, the workings of his mind, his vision of the world, whether it be bathed in smokey darkness or washed out in sunlight.

Track List:
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

Kurt Vile: Wakin' On A Pretty Daze
Purchase at: Amazon | eMusic

Our Rating

89 / 100
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