Wakin On A Pretty Daze
Kurt Vile left the band The War on Drugs back in 2008 after the release of his self-recorded debut album Constant Hitmaker garnered a fair amount of critical success. Since then, he has not turned back to his past band and instead fully embraced his solo career with his backing band the Violators. I for one am glad he did so. Vile has a knack of slipping in bits and pieces of Americana folk into grungy psychedelic pop tunes, all with a modern twist to it so it seems current, yet somewhat timeless. His styles have changed slightly from album to album, and with his newest release, Walkin On A Pretty Daze he has found a way to chill out more than ever. The album title is a proper summation for the feel of the album, which it perfectly encapsulates a very dreamy daze-like ambience floating through entire +60 minutes. His pop-grunge vibe is still there, but in a longer and more relaxed fashion. This makes for one of my favorite efforts from Kurt thus far.
I was a big fan of his last effort, Smoke Ring for My Halo in which at some moments you could find Kurt channeling more of a Neil Young approach to a very straightforward music style, that would sometimes even stretch into his vocals (see “Society Is My Friend”). Sporadically songs like “Runner Ups” on that album would hint towards the direction he went for on Walkin On A Pretty Daze, but now we see Kurt diving in, waist-to-balls deep to embrace his psychedelic-folk fusion into his music. The average song length clocking in around 7:00 minutes, he seems to have been inspired by Neil’s latest release Psychedelic Pill. You could even say he was taking on a more Bob Dylan style approach to writing pop songs, in which they hook and hold the listener for the long haul. Paying no mind to cap the song at the average listener’s attention span, but instead, drawing it out until the song folds naturally. Sometimes this can be boring or seem uninspired, but in this case it does the opposite. It invites a very comfortable, breathable feel to the album that also allows Kurt and his Violators to explore more with their instruments, looping, layering, and effects.
^ Feel the groove
The first track of the album gets the listener nice and comfortable with its 9:31 pleasantly long “Walking On A Pretty Day”, in which the albums punny title is based off of. This track almost feels as if it was ripped directly from the hands of Stephen Malkmus himself with its acoustic rythym guitar counter-layered with a spacey grunge electric, interplaying throughout. It is a slow building groover that gently transforms into grungy psychedelic meltdown. Which leads in wonderfully to the next quick and dirty “KV Crimes”. The album balances itself like this well by naturally shifting from the longer more breathable tracks to the shorter, more classic sounding Kurt Vile tracks. The transitions aren’t jarring to the ear, but instead flow in to one another with minimal effort. It’s somewhat like taking a long road trip across the country in which you aren’t rushing anywhere, but instead going at your own pace to end up at whatever your destination may be. You speedily drive these long stretches of road that don’t seem to drift on forever (like the steadily paced “Was All Talk”). Then you breach the outer banks of a city and traffic begins to speed up. The roads begin to twist and turn and all at once you’re buried in the shadows of skyscrapers and smog (“KV Crimes”, “Air Bud”). Then before you know it, you pop back out onto the open road. Sometimes hills, sometimes it’s nothing but flat land (the graceful “Too Hard”). At one point you begin to climb through icy mountains on a constant curve, and then before you know it, you’re standing in front of the grand canyon, relaxed, in awe, and inspired (“Goldtone”).
Just as the albums opening track seems to slowly wake its listener up from under a blanket of sunshine, the album’s closer “Goldtone” slowly drifts you back into you’re pleasantly dreamy state, readying us right back down into our comfy pillows and ready for a new beginning tomorrow. This album is almost a perfect way to live a day. Flowing so gracefully through so many different phases of sound is something that shows Vile’s skillfulness in in his craft and his knowledge of song. His lyrics are fun, comedic, and for someone who sounds like a total stoner at some points, they are surprisingly intelligent and insightful. Such a pleasant surprise from someone who is proving to become one of the more masterful artists of modern rock music.
Can’t Miss: “Wakin On A Pretty Day”, “Was All Talk”, “Too Hard”, “KV Crimes”, “Goldtone”
Can’t Miss: None