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Kurt Vile
Wakin On A Pretty Daze Ian Crichton , April 11th, 2013 13:49

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A man out of time, Kurt Vile is a songwriter in a classic mould. Each release improving on the last, 2008's Constant Hitmaker and 2009's Matador debut Childish Prodigy served to establish two KV constants: a prolific, self aware mythmaker of some confidence, and a devoted student of decades of rock, folk, and noise (a cover of Dim Stars' 'Monkey'? What a dweeb.) But after opening himself up on the excellent Smoke Ring For My Halo, there's something amiss on Wakin On A Pretty Daze – he sounds aloof and indirect, as if a few too many diary entries left him exposed.

On the early records, Kurt's wandering mind would manifest itself in 90-second sketches of sound, a looped riff and a loose verse later re-used. On Pretty Daze, his mind wanders, but only within the strict confines of a song. Where Smoke Ring put Vile's voice front and centre, here he often trails off where you might expect a chorus, and instrumentation takes precedence with keys warbling in the background. Guitar solos appear often, and at length.

At 69 minutes, it's expansive and certainly his most ambitious recording yet. The lengthy, cyclical arrangements share more in common with his Philly brothers in arms The War on Drugs than they do his previous roots and rock touchstones. But unlike his former band's rambling pilgrimages to where'er, Pretty Daze can sometimes feel on rails, stuck in one direction until there's no track left. This locked-in psychedelia also brings to mind one of producer John Angello's more high profile gigs: Bob Dylan's 'Series of Dreams', his 1989 surrealist meditation on repetition ("all I seemed to be doing was climb".)

This kind of running on the spot serves at its best on a song like the not-quite title track 'Wakin On A Pretty Day', a beautiful, bucolic front porch strummer, opening the record with as much intent stated as relaxed indifference. The song's claims of living "along a straight line" literalise the album's relationship with forward momentum better than any lowly rock critic might.

He follows through with some rare candour on 'Was All Talk'. Warped acoustic guitars and a drum machine back him up for eight minutes, which feels like the Childish Prodigy highlight 'Freak Train' all grown up; swapping stare-downs with the night weirdos for putting in the hours and proving oneself, a former forklift driver's 'fuck you' to all career counsellors.

This dogged determinism can make the album's few deviations from form feel like radical change ups; the keyboard shuffle at the end of 'Air Bud' is a welcome break from plainly functional riffing, and the halfway-point breakdowns on 'Girl Called Alex' and 'Pure Pain' make for glorious breathing space, owing some debt to Angello's work on the last two Sonic Youth records.

When he lets his guard down on the almost-solo acoustic 'Too Hard', it is demonstrative of the way in which the album will demand repeat listens to take apart the initial obfuscation; at first over-long and meandering, the minimal accompaniment keeps the spotlight on Vile's heartfelt declarations for his young daughter ("I promise to do my very best for you"), and it's here that Pretty Daze might start to let you in.

Yet the lack of immediacy isn't Vile's biggest problem here: it might seem trivial, but Wakin On A Pretty Daze is his first release that doesn't improve upon his last. Rather like Bob Dylan endlessly climbing in one of his dreams, Kurt Vile remains stationary.


Apr 11, 2013 6:03pm

The indie rock Tom Petty except even more insipid-- great, just what the world was waiting for!! Please Limeys, Welsh and Scots, don't fall for this crap; America-- Philly too-- can, has and will again do better. Thank you.

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James
Apr 11, 2013 8:15pm

Finally a review that nails it! far too directionless in comparison to 'Smoke Ring...' it's got some good moments but not enough variation contained within the longer tracks, find myself drifting off not in the way perhsps intended but because I'm bored. The title track and closing track 'Gold Tone' I think capture what he set out to do with this album best and the shorter sharper tracks 'KV Crimes' & 'Shame Chamber' are a welcome relief and show he's still got the magic even if they don't quite hit the peaks of his last album. Good in parts but not great ...ever so slightly disappointed

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Apr 12, 2013 9:20am

You lot are fucking crazy. This is an amazing album

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JoJoDancer
Apr 12, 2013 2:07pm

third rate "folk" "psyche" + unrateable "classic rock" schlock: like bad Springsteen crossed with unreleased Hapshash & the Coloured Goat. the Vile schtick is ridiculous, one more example of people's 'just because it's 'indie' (sic) acceptance of mediocrity.

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Poor-but-dirty
Apr 12, 2013 3:53pm

I think this is a great album. I listened to it about 15 times, and didn't yet reached the bottom of the thing. And it has a subversive quality that you Quietus people are too cool to sniff. This man doesn't care whether he is cool or not (that's what makes him times cooler). And I suspect he doesn't care about being an indie artist. Did you hear the cowbells?

Btw, Monkey is Richard Hell's last great song, it somehow got lost in the Dim Stars colaboration. And the cover is very good, so why call him a dweeb.

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Apr 12, 2013 4:50pm

In reply to JoJoDancer:

How many times have you actually listened to this one, champ?

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PJD
Apr 12, 2013 11:04pm

Great great great album. This review is way off. The songs aren't directionless, they're expansive, and the album certainly builds upon SRFMH with better melodies accompanied by better guitar playing. If you're not paying attention, it might seem like some tracks are "stuck on rails," but underneath the churning melodies are building, swirling guitars that subtly change things up. Hands down the best album so far this year - will be tough to top.

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Apr 13, 2013 1:06am

In reply to PJD:

Completely agree, and as much as I enjoyed Kurt Vile's last album, the sound on "Wakin' On A Pretty Daze" is more lucid and not as claustrophobic as "Smoke Ring For My Halo". I think "Goldtone" is his best song he's made yet. Just too many gorgeous sounding guitars backing up the vocals and chorus.

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Apr 13, 2013 3:02am

In reply to JoJoDancer:

Couldn't agree more. This stuff is a joke! It's boring as all hell. And it's ridiculous why this guy gets the hype he gets. A heap of bland crap for the sheep of the world who have to be told whats cool and what's hip to like. Trust your own ears and eyes and stop believing the well oiled hype machine.
Then again, i guess some people actually like lame boring self indulgent sh*t!

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Apr 13, 2013 8:48am

In reply to :

How old are you, mate?

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Chad
Apr 13, 2013 4:04pm

In reply to :

What is boring? Using the word "boring" has to be the laziest form of criticism. And calling people sheep for liking this is so laughable. How about you tell me more about yourself, so that I can talk shit about how sheepish and how much of a conceited prick you are.

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Apr 13, 2013 6:44pm

In reply to Chad:

u must be a bit daft. boring means dull; repetitious; uninteresting. look it up yourself.

the people/sheep reference refers this:

Sheeple (a portmanteau of "sheep" and "people") is a term in which people are likened to sheep, a herd animal. The term is used to describe those who voluntarily acquiesce to a suggestion without critical analysis or research. They undermine their own individuality and may willingly give up their rights.

got it prick?

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Chad
Apr 13, 2013 7:13pm

In reply to :

God bless! :D

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Apr 13, 2013 7:16pm

In reply to :

And it totally sucks Kurt Vile fucked his long time drummer over royally. That guy was amazing. I've seen Mike Zanghi play with both The War on Drugs and the Violators on a few occasions. I'm a long time fan of both bands. First saw him play at The Windmill a few years ago. The last time was at the Latitude Festival and he KILLED IT as usual! One of the best drummers I've ever seen! Kurt's a real dick for sticking it to him.

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Apr 13, 2013 7:34pm

In reply to :

"Boring" is a buzzword. At least you tried to sound smart. I'll give you a 2 out of 10 for effort.

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PJD
Apr 14, 2013 7:09pm

In reply to :

It's hard not to discount someone who calls people "sheep" for their subjective tastes. The only thing lamer is bridging the gap and calling people "sheeple." Grow up. Calling this album boring is like calling a P.T. Anderson movie boring - just because you're too lazy to put in the effort doesn't make it "repetitious" or "dull," it makes you a lazy dolt.

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Apr 14, 2013 9:03pm

In reply to :

"Kurt Vile" is a buzzword. At least your trying to b cool. I'll give you a -2 in taste.

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CityOfDaughters
Apr 16, 2013 9:07pm

I found the record pretty directionless and dull upon my first couple listens, although a few tracks really stood out. Over the weekend, however, the thing just clicked. There's so much going on in nearly every track. The conventional song structure doesn't apply to anything here. This is extremely complex stuff and I really do think Vile is onto something. Sure, the music isn't necessarily revolutionary - he has one foot a little too firmly planted in the past. But there's enough originality and personality inserted in every tune to still make the record a fresh listen. I love it. Deerhunter at their peak had the same effect for me.

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Apr 25, 2013 4:58pm

Horrible fucking album! When you start out sounding like a brain dead Lou Reed and can't get out of the song without banal, bored yeah yeah yeah filler, there's no turning back. Neil Young's autistic son couldn't be less engaged or engaging than this lazy fraud.

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Apr 25, 2013 4:58pm

Horrible fucking album! When you start out sounding like a brain dead Lou Reed and can't get out of the song without banal, bored yeah yeah yeah filler, there's no turning back. Neil Young's autistic son couldn't be less engaged or engaging than this lazy fraud.

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Ted G
May 2, 2013 10:40am

Bit disappointed with this album ultimately. I think it's solid, which isn't really the adjective I wanted to describe it as, especially as he's gone for a more progressive sound. I like most of it but none of the tracks are dazzling. And it's way too long. Halo was less ambitious but the melodies were sweeter and better.

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toby
May 15, 2013 12:58am

In reply to Ted G:

it's a grower. give it time.

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Sep 29, 2013 4:30pm

In reply to PJD:

What makes a melody 'better'? One more familiar or ???

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Jan 31, 2014 6:00am

Kurt Vile plain and simply sucks

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