Daze for Days
Five years is a considerable amount of time, unless you reflect on certain things, such as the musical output of Kurt Vile. The man can’t stop, having released four solo records, multiple EPs and two more albums as The War On Drugs (with his partner-in-crime, Adam Granduciel). He claims to have known from a pretty early age that he would play music for a living and, with this production record, Vile has proven to be one of the more prolific writers of experimental, lo-fi acoustic plainsong. And what’s more, he has now released his fifth record, Wakin On a Pretty Daze.
In reality, there are a few different ways to take in an album like this. It is definitely the cleanest sounding in the Vile catalog, but this could be a turnoff to those in love with the “closet” aesthetic of the early works. Some of the extended instrumental jam sections may not work as well in their new clarity, sounding more like the track was put on loop than an intentional device. Vile’s relaxed, regular-guy singing doesn’t suffer the same problems, however. There is an added intimacy and warmth not revealed before, particularly on the title track.
The KV lyrical range has always been a wide open landscape, from absurdist commentary to poetic clichés to bare-bones personal—the latter being his strongest suit. “There was a time in my life when they thought I was all talk,” says Vile in “Was All Talk,” which is true or not true depending on how you look at it. “I will promise not to smoke too much and I will promise not to party too hard. It’s too hard,” he admits freely. The best comes on the final track, “Gold Tones,” which lays bare the process of an artist in a sweet, simple way: “Sometimes when I get in my zone, you’d think I was stoned. But I never, as they say, ‘touch the stuff.’ I might be adrift but I’m still alert, concentrating my hurt into a gold tone.”
A wealth of the musical meat of Wakin On a Pretty Daze is good ideas carried on too long. This makes for good background or road trip listening, serving as a smooth and sunny soundtrack for whatever activity or journey one is engaged in. But as “songs” they might be a bit much. There is a lot of unchanging repetition of arrangements, beats and (sometimes) lyrics that make you wonder if this hour-plus record could have been a great forty-five minute record. This is not a new trait however, and could be said about much of Vile’s work. Still, it’s refreshing to see someone get his work out there so consistently, as well as so strongly build a name for himself in such a short time.