Kurt Vile returns two years after the release of the fabulous Smoke Ring For My Halo with his fifth album release Wakin On A Pretty Daze out on Matador Records this week. Layers of swooning guitar, soft steady drum rhythms and lazy vocals are poised to guide you on more lucid dreams or conjure memories of where you first connected with the translucent swirls and near psychedelic sounds of previous albums.
Album opener ‘Wakin On A Pretty Day’, released as a free download earlier this year alongside a ‘making of’ film for the album cover, is full of fuzzy undertones and characteristic washy “yeah yeah yeahs”. Effortlessly ambling for 9.30 minutes, the track never falters and patiently waits before escalating into the guitar led climax. The grungey ‘KV Crimes’ shows clear roots to KV’s early days recording at home onto cassettes and blank cds. Simple, nonsensical lyrics such as “Club Mate, On holiday, With a moon duo, Space partners” re-assert this feel of youthfulness in his writing style. The slightly more daring ‘Was All Talk’ with its rapid drum machine, rhythmic drips and keyboard strings also gives the album a DIY feel.
The sorrowful organ filled ‘Girl Called Alex’ and hazy ‘Never Run Away’ capture the tone and melancholic feel found on SRFMH, whereas the bitter-sweet sections in ‘Pure Pain’ expose some new song-writing styles and delivers some the most beautiful moments on this album. As does ‘Shame Chamber’ which fixes the listener with a catchy up-beat melodic chorus that edges as close to pop as Kurt Vile will ever get, with echoey yelps and playful guitar licks adding further colour.
The broken intro into ‘Air Bud’ soon releases a laid back light drum groove that moves far away from the sound of drum machines and gives the track some physicality and bounce that isn’t often seen in KV material. Accompanied by open ended electronic waves of guitar and synthesizers, KV draws out lyrics to great effect and produces one of the most enjoyable and surprisingly up-beat songs on the album. Closing track ‘Goldtone’ features vocalist Jennifer Herrema from Royal Trux who comes close to matching the beauty of ‘Baby’s Arms’ (SRFMH) featuring Meg Baird. Other contributors on WOAPD include Farmer Dave Scher of Beachwood Sparks, drummer Stella Mozgawa of Warpaint, Woods frontman Jeremy Earl, and former Violator Michael Johnson and harpist Mary Lattimore.
There’s an individualistic youthful feel that is apparent throughout WOAPD, with many tracks sounding like they began in the bedroom of a teenage Kurt Vile, still full of exploration around the simplicity of a few chords and with lyrics that make sense only to the writer. Full of space yet filled with constant reverberations, KV’s style is unique and within this album, he shows more skilled song-writing capabilities from his previous releases. KV’s music seems to have a timeless purity and I hope it entices other listeners to bask in their own escapism and freedom of thought as it does with me. If Kurt Vile isn’t my spirit guide, then he has most definitely produced the soundtrack that plays whilst I’m journeying.