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Pretty Daze For Lazy Days
on 8 April 2013
Wakin On A Pretty Daze is the fifth long-playing release from blue-collar hero Kurt Vile, the current king of heartland rock and, or so it would seem, the whole city of Philadelphia. True to his increasingly laid-back narrative and with a running time well over an hour, it's now fairly safe to assume Vile's snotty, lo-fi past is behind him. Yet, despite a storytelling arc which, amongst other things, deals with having to comes to terms with responsibility, Vile is nevertheless still keen on sticking it to the man - albeit in more subtle tones than on 2011's smash Smoke Ring For My Halo.
Forever a product of his FM upbringing, Vile continues to draw from a rich palette of American icons, largely limiting himself to three main players this time around: Dylan, Young and Reed. "Making music's easy" Vile jokes on "Was All Talk". Well, it's not if you're gonna emulate these three and get away with it any credibility. There's certainly more to it than Wakin On A Pretty Daze`s vintage construct, the Sunday-morning pacing sure to alienate some younger ears and their Internet-fried attention spans. A downbeat mid-section will do little to convince them neither - a dose of considered bile would help enliven the listen, but Vile is no flavour-of-the-month. He lives and breathes the lonesome Americana he preaches, edging his craft closer to the greats on which he grew with each chord progression. His imagery of the road-less-travelled is borne of experience and if his tales are not toasted with the same romantic beams of sunlight that warmed his own back in reality then they certainly are in ideal.
There's a balance to be struck and with "Pure Pain", on which Vile laments his own success via mixed tempos, audible fretwork and train-like pedal steel, he manages to instil a sense of hopeless optimism entirely apt for his brand of competent, conscious slacking. Indeed, Vile's easy-going drawl leads you to think he's been hammering the herb, but a declaration that he doesn't "touch the stuff" during the dreamy, sun-dappled "Goldtone" would seem to disprove the notion.
Though his eyes may nevertheless remain half-mast, Vile's brain is working overtime. His folksy finger-picking is mesmeric, the unobtrusive arrangements of long-time partners The Violaters blissful and/or sorrowful as appropriate. And whilst this is a collection that unquestionably meanders through MOR psychedelia under its own organic steam, Vile brings confidence enough to know when to sit back and let the guitars do the talking and when to allow his withering observation to bite. Though it's played at too slow a speed, "KV Crimes" is straight-up classic-rock for example; "Snowflakes Are Dancing" and the focussed "Never Run Away" relatively dynamic in such gentle company too.
Whilst Smoke Ring For My Halo seemed very much timeless in the landscape of American rock, Wakin On A Pretty Daze seems a little more out of place. Rather, it's of a specific time and place no longer generally accessible outside of the grand traditions of the American dream. Vile hasn't lost his touch - far from it - he's just living in a world of pure aesthetic, beaming his celestial ideology back to us in album form - his earthly crown very much intact.
Advised downloads: "KV Crimes" and "Pure Pain".