An unfiltered view into Kurt Vile’s brain
Bottle It In is an authentic, unfiltered glimpse into the mind of Kurt Vile. Released on Matador Records, Vile’s eighth studio release gives listeners a taste of his complex, poetic lyricism and laid-back instrumentals with little regard for the commercial aspect of music. Vile’s meandering ten-minute strolls have no interest in radio marketability, and his droning baritone vocals won’t have anyone mistaking him for John Mayer. But there’s an authenticity and artistry inherent in Bottle It In that makes it hard to put down. While the length of some songs can be tiresome and excessive, it suits the album’s attitude and motif. This is not a record for a walk down a city street, but rather for an evening alone in one’s home, occupied by their thoughts and the machinations of Vile’s brain.
“Loading Zones” is a leisurely, easy-going introduction that effectively sets the tone for Bottle It In, as it carefully toes the lines between folk, indie rock and country music.
“Yeah Bones,” one of Bottle It In’s catchier songs, serves as a nice change of pace from the album’s otherwise slow, carefree sound. This track exhibits the strength and depth of Vile’s lyricism. The line, “When nobody calls me on the phone / I won’t break my bones over it” represents not only a comfort with and acceptance of solitude, but it also serves as a rejection of an increasingly digitized culture that’s reflected in Vile’s country and Americana influences, sounds that evoke days gone by. This theme serves as one of the album’s primary through lines.
The cleverly named “Bassackwards” is a twangy, down-home tune that sounds like something Bradley Cooper’s interpretation of Jackson Maine in A Star Is Born might sing. The use of a whooshing, reverse-playback sound–similar to Hendrix’s “Castles Made Of Sand”–befits the song’s name.
“Rollin With The Flow” is another long, laid-back groove that has Vile sounding as natural, poised and relaxed as ever. It begins with Vile innocently and earnestly asking the listener: “How ya doin’?”
“Bottle It In” and “Mutinies” have Vile laying the deepest recesses of his heart and mind bare for the audience. In these tracks, he grapples with personal demons, while revisiting his earlier appraisal of society and technology. The title track is a deeply personal tune that sounds like a diary entry put to music, with its hazy, dreamy sound lulling you in slowly until you look up and realize you’ve been ensnared in Kurt Vile’s mind for ten minutes.
Still, some songs seem to blend together and fail to make a mark. “Skinny Mini” experiments with the use of noise, but there is hardly enough depth here musically to justify yet another ten-minute track.
“I think things are way easier with a regular telephone,” he confesses in “Mutinies.” Vile discusses the “small computer in his hand” as well as the “little man” in his head, as he struggles both internally and externally. He references pills that he takes to make the little man “go away,” and while it’s unclear if this refers to legitimate treatment or self-medication, it’s obvious that Vile is struggling with both himself and the world around him.
The album concludes with “(bottle back),” an uncharacteristically short and tonally out-of-place track. Vile introduces a strange robotic melody that is a departure from the rest of Bottle It In, though it is likely a tie-in to the album’s broader theme of technology. This robotic sound seems to occupy the sonic space where his vocals would normally reside, so it’s possible that Vile’s final message to the listener on Bottle It In is that he, like all of us, is being slowly consumed by technology. Either way, it is an intriguing and open-ended conclusion that, like much of the album, leaves it up to the listener to interpret.
Bottle It In is quirky, poetic, idiosyncratic, honest and emotional. It’s not perfect, as Vile seems to occasionally lose himself in his own thoughts, but it is a compelling offering nonetheless. Vile’s cryptic lyricism and eclectic mix of indie rock, country, folk and blues make Bottle It In worth a listen.