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Kurt Vile - Wakin On A Pretty Daze

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Artist: Kurt Vile

Album: Wakin On A Pretty Daze

Label: Matador

Review date: Apr. 8, 2013

Kurt Vile - "Wakin On a Pretty Day"

There’s something almost comically casual about Kurt Vile’s persona. The tumbling hair. The “Hunchback.” The mumbled vocals and laconic guitar lines. Yet, here is an artist who in the span of half a decade has passed from hoarding home-recorded CDRs to a position in the center of the Matador Records stable and stature as figurehead of a contemporary classic rock.

Wakin On A Pretty Daze, much like 2011’s Smoke Ring For My Halo, finds Vile holding court in a professional studio, backed by longtime bros the Violators. Long gone is the drum machine cluttered cassette fuzz that gave Constant Hitmaker such a charm. However, unlike so many artists who flirt with fame, Vile’s aging has been graceful. The bigger budgets and tech-packed recording spaces have actually solidified his sound — the studio acting as hallowed rock ’n’ roll breeding ground, not zoo of experimentation. Vile may come across clearer, bled into stereo channels, sparkled by new-strung guitars, but the core of his art hasn’t been altered. While listening to Wakin On A Pretty Daze, one doesn’t visualize coke-fired multi-track mayhem, or ill-advised “damn, what does that thing do” toying. There is no Auto-Tune.

Instead, what we are presented with is another seamless, near-flaw-free set of distinctly Vile-penned songs. “Wakin On A Pretty Day,” the word-switching title track that opens the album, is a nine-and-a-half minute encapsulation of the KV brand. The track moves at the pace of a wide river, with chiming, clean-strummed acoustic guitars, an electric lead which ebbs from fluid fills to spaced jamming, and lyrics which address a day in the life of a guy trying to go nowhere fast.

The track is so solid that were the record just, say, this cut as a single-sided 12”, it would still rank as a career high. But Vile’s only getting started and the rest of the 69-minute double album features a number of peaks near-similar in height.

“KV Crimes” showcases the band trading in the type of syrup-soaked Crazy Horse licks that first appeared on The Hunchback EP. “Too Hard” and “Goldtone,” two of the album’s other epics, find Vile in contemplative mode, promising “not to smoke too much,” and “searching the deep, dark depths” of his soul, commenting “I might be adrift / but I’m still alert / concentrating my hurt into a gold tone.”

“Never Run Away” has a hand clapping catchiness that shines through its rather casual rendering. “Snowflakes Are Dancing” trips things out a touch with curls of guitar and lyrics that reference — in the span of a single verse — codeine, “chilling on a pillowy cloud,” Bruce Springsteen and, um, a “pumping” Discman.

While Wakin On A Pretty Daze may not be an anthemic leap forward, it is in many ways even stronger for its existence as example of a craft being so finely honed. This is Vile doing what he does and doing it even better than before.

If, for some reason, you’ve yet to turn your ears in his direction, take warning: the time is now. And for those who have long been riders on Vile’s slow train to nowhere, this is the best journey yet.

By Ethan Covey

Other Reviews of Kurt Vile

Childish Prodigy

Smoke Ring for My Halo

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