Wakin On A Pretty Daze
Kurt Vile’s fifth album is his best and, yes, that’s a big call since Smoke Ring For My Halo – the one that introduced him to a larger audience, that in turn improved on the also-excellent Childish Prodigy – might have seemed a hard act to follow.
Vile does it – as always seems to be the way – with ease. I was lucky enough to see him perform in San Francisco last year right as I was having a second go at Smoke Ring. And it was perfect. He made it perfect and it couldn’t have seemed more effortless.
Wakin On A Pretty Daze has a glorious shimmer and shine to it – the guitars intricately weaving beneath that Lou Reed-like drawl.
Here the 33-year-old promises “not to smoke too much” and “not to party too hard” in a lazy-lovely Tom Petty-esque crawl of a song that celebrates his new fatherhood status.
Later in the album he says, “I might be adrift but I’m still alert”. He could be commenting on his playing style – this gorgeous feel of thrown together guitars, when in fact it’s sewn together, delicate and intricate, a languid-liquid feel that has always reminded me of David Kilgour. The songs seem to wake up and shake of fthe hangover as they mill about and meander but still get their stuff done. The songs seem to suggest what The Grateful Dead might have done with some focus. The songs on Wakin On A Pretty Daze are often stunning; so deep, deeply drawn from Vile’s life, full of sharp lyrical lines and smooth-cornered guitar lines.
Across the album he sounds like the Lou Reed of Sally Can’t Dance, nonchalant but super-cool; a spoken/sung phrasing. There’s more reminders of Kilgour on this album too (Snowflakes Are Dancing) and hints back to Vile’s old band, The War on Drugs. Or is all just Beck after guitar lessons covering Pavement as jam-band?
The spirit of Neil Young seems obvious too – more for the do-as-the-artist-pleases approach to pleasing an audience; still delivering the goods but without bowing to any form of pressure outside of the version of perfectionism the artist puts on himself.
There’s an almost-arrogance on display here in so many of the cruisy (but never cruise-control) songs. The opener and near-enough to title-track, Wakin On A Pretty Day, for instance; a huge way to open an album that is hotly anticipated by indie music fans, a 10 minute track that drifts and morphs and rolls.
Kurt Vile has possibly not even given us his best record. And that’s very much a reason to keep listening. For he has given us his best record to date. There’ll be (some other kind of) more where this came from. Perfectionism has never been served up so wrinkled and creased, stoned-over, parched and poignant.