Review Summary: A record that reads like a book penned from Vile's subconscious.
Kurt Vile's meekness is fascinating. See his cameo in Matador Records' promotional video, where he introduces his new track, “Never Run Away,” and pay attention to two things: Vile’s affection for his absolutely adorable daughter, and his discomfort with being documented listening to his own music. It isn’t that he dislikes his work-- rather, he seems to be relatively proud of it as a whole-- but it’s a condition with which all personally-driven songsters seem to be afflicted. Contrary to Vile’s last work, though, Wakin On A Pretty Daze
has little to do with gloom. It’s instead a subtle sunray of energy, a ballad that’s likely about the songwriter's life-long relationship with his wife. It’s also all about the comfort of monotony, the thrill of knowing exactly what-- or in Vile’s case, who-- lies around the corner.
Much of Wakin On A Pretty Daze
plays to this carefree tune, as one surmises from the album’s title. Any grammatical geek will have a playday either explaining the hilarious irony in Kurt Vile’s decision to leave the apostrophe off “Wakin’,” or pointing out that the musician probably just didn’t care. The latter seems likelier, considering Vile rarely discusses his songwriting process with much detail; minute as the point may seem, the lax punctuation rules in the album title show there are more important things at hand. And if that doesn’t do it, just listen to a few seconds of the album: the relaxed guitar rhythms, the straight-forward drums and breezy vocals. Nothing about the album screams subtlety, because that wouldn’t be subtle enough.
Wakin On A Pretty Daze
comes into focus with context, though, as does any accomplished record. Without understanding that Kurt Vile is just another guy, his poetically vague nothings come across as little more than, well, vague nothings. The songwriter displays his compliance with life in just about any interview, from raving about his family to praising his hometown. Vile is content with his life, so why hurry? “Take your time, so they say, and that’s probably the best way to be,” he stammers in “Too Hard,” and the line’s rhythm is sluggish, not paying the track's actual rhythm a bit of attention. But anyone who says it needs to doesn’t understand the lyrical statement Wakin On A Pretty Daze
makes as a whole-- it's all about the words, and the context behind them.
Kurt Vile takes his time with his music, and focuses in on what matters to him-- the guitarwork. Despite how easily the album may come across to first-time listeners, Vile himself admits to perfectionism in the studio, and a desire to get this “guitar composer-y record” to fruition. It shows with repeated listens, the sense that Kurt spent eternity
perfectly orchestrating the guitar arrangements. Standout example “Was All Talk” is subtly layered guitar utopia, from the gradual effects to the delicate textures, but a proper listen will display the potency of Vile’s patient musicianship. Because for all the lengthy tracks at hand-- the average one is six minutes, for christ’s sake-- the spacious runtimes give the infectious melodies time to embellish, and reach the brink of their capabilities.
It’s undeniable that Wakin On A Pretty Daze
means the most with an understanding of what Kurt Vile is all about. He lives, he writes songs about his life and then hopes others will connect with him. His music is a vessel of sorts, a book penned from Vile’s subconscious and written for our experiences, so that we can live his music the way he does.