Monday, April 8, 2013

REVIEW: Kurt Vile, Wakin On a Pretty Daze

Okay kids, stoner rock is back. And I mean that in a good way. I'm not usually a guy for 9 minute songs, but as they said in the Ghostbusters movie, that's more a guideline than a rule. The Allman Brothers did it well in 1972 and Kurt Vile in 2013.

But these 6, 7, 8, 9 and even 10 minute songs aren't "jams". They don't feature long solos or meander around outside of the song structure. There is nothing indulgent about this. It is simply that the songs unfold, explore, and take their sweet time to dig deep.

Wakin on a Pretty Daze is a hypnotic and beautiful record. I am itching to take a road trip just to get to hear it on the open highway - this is driving music of the highest order (look out Feelies and Luna, you'll finally have stiff competition on my next trip).

We loved the Philadelphia native's 2011 CD Smoke Ring for My Halo and included it on two of our best of 2011 year end lists.  And Wakin On a Pretty Daze, Vile's fifth LP, picks up where Smoke Ring  left off but pushes the envelope even further.

Here's Kurt Vile introducing "Never Run Away" with a cameo appearance by a special young person:

A couple things to note: Vile has a gentle and tonally pleasing voice that suits this music perfectly.  He takes it up and then takes it down at times to a near whisper, even mumbles, much like people do when they are having an intimate conversation, which is exactly how these 11 songs feel. And Vile has band members (The Violators, get it?) who are more than up for the challenge posed by songwriting and record-making this ambitious:

Jesse Trbovich - guitars, saxophone
Rob Laaskso - bass
Stella Mozgawa - drums

Trbovich has been playing with Vile for 10 years and it shows. Their interplay on guitar is the center of the record and they play off each other extraordinarily well. Producer John Agnello (Dinosaur Jr., The Hold Steady, Drive-By Truckers, Son Volt, etc.) captures it all exactly right, not losing the spontaneity of this sort of extended playing but managing to keep the songs focused even at their length, no small feat indeed.

The opening but not quite title track "Wakin on a Pretty Day":

Overall, what hits me most about this CD is its completely original sound. So much of what we hear, even when truly great stuff, fits neatly into some category or set of influences that are readily apparent. From start to finish, Wakin on a Pretty Daze is a signal not an echo. This is bold, original work with a great deal of musical depth that will reward the repeat listener. Make no mistake, Kurt Vile is an important artist and Wakin on a Pretty Daze is a major statement from him.

You can, at least for awhile, listen to a stream of the entire record here at NPR's web page.

Kurt Vile Facebook page.

Kurt Vile official web page (free download of "Never Run Away", the first video in this piece, available there - or click here).  

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