Kurt Vile: Wakin On a Pretty Daze – album review

Kurt Vile – Wakin On a Pretty Daze (Matador)
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Kurt Vile’s new album is a warm and expansive collection of songs which may be his most fully realised work to date. Read Alana Turk’s take on it below.

Kurt Vile has finally returned with his long awaited fifth album, following the release of the critically acclaimed ‘Smoke Ring For My Halo’ back in 2011. Honing his style over the years, it seems the long-haired idealist has definitively nailed it with the mature, yet still dreamy, ‘Wakin On A Pretty Daze’.

Opening with the near 10-minute “Wakin On A Pretty Day”, it proves to be a pretty good indication as to the tone and pace of the rest of the album. Seeming effortlessly relaxed in its conception, the simplistic acoustic chord sequence loosely unravels at a casual pace. “KV Crimes” finds Vile’s mellow vocals teamed with an upbeat, hypnotic interplay of guitar and bass, and a few controlled yet dexterous electric solos. “Was All Talk” maintains a shift up in tempo, with an array of multiple drum and electronic beats. A sense of reflection emanates through the sound of woozy guitars and soulful lyrics, “There was a time in my life when they thought I was all talk… now I got the upper hand”. 

There is something brutally honest and intimate about Vile’s songwriting and lyricism throughout ‘Wakin On A Pretty Daze’, more so than on any of his previous works. Many songs on the album focus around the struggle between the responsibilities of becoming a family man, and the idealistic daydream. “Pure Pain” deals with the loneliness of constantly being on the road and the sacrifices that come with being a musician, whereas “Too Hard” finds Vile trying to overcome his problems and better himself. He makes half-hearted promises like “I will promise not to smoke too much and I will promise not to party”, whilst also resigning to the fact that “I’m just human after all”. These two beautifully pensive songs are juxtaposed with the up-tempo, cheerful sounding rhythm of “Shame Chamber”, which contrary to how it sounds, is full of lyrical self loathing.

Just as the album had begun, ‘Wakin On A Pretty Daze’ closes with another 10-minute hazy ballad. The record’s fine details are all summed up within this one intricate track, with an amalgamation of sounds including dreamy organ and drowsy slide guitar. “Goldtone” proves to be a smouldering end to a wonderful collection of musical workings.

Whereas previous works have been quite reserved, ‘Wakin On A Pretty Daze’ sees Vile at his most confident and boldly candid. With the help of his band, The Violators, he has managed to add another layer of quixotic sound to his usual lo-fi grungy tones – an abundance of sound effects and synths contribute to a compelling new variety. Despite the album lasting around 70-minutes, the music is captivating throughout, emphasizing once again Vile’s great songwriting abilities.

Kurt Vile can be followed on Facebook and Twitter, or keep up to date with the latest news via his official webpage here.

Words by Alana Turk. More writing by Alana on Louder Than War can be found here.


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