The latest release from Philadelphia guitarist/songwriter Kurt Vile is a 69-minute double LP of lengthy, languid meditations on the everyday and beyond. The songs unwind slowly, their charms leaving imprints on the way back around.
The glorious, understated opener, “Wakin' on a Pretty Day,” sets the tone: a nearly 10-minute soundtrack for that moment when you wake up and realize it's going to be beautiful outside. Lost in a morning haze, Vile lets on: “To be frank, I'm fried, but I don't mind.” “Too Hard” is another thing of beauty, as he ponders fatherhood, promises not to smoke too much, and sings about taking “hold of the hand that ain't his, but it is.”
Rooted in a sort of 1970s rock sprawl, Vile stretches out where his forebears might have flexed, opting instead for the rustic flair of a Neil Young or John Fahey. At times his guitar lines seem to levitate, or move in slow motion, and he sings like he's having a personal conversation.
But for all the deliberation, there's an edge. Pointing to his arrival, he reminds the detractors “there was a time in my life when they said I was all talk.” “Shame Chamber” is about “feeling bad in the best way a man can.” And on “KV Crimes,” he gets downright anthemic, punching out the line, “I think I'm ready to claim what's mine.”
Still the main takeaway is to take it all in. On the closer, Vile sings about hibernating in the now and being simultaneously adrift and alert. An anomaly in the what-next rush of this era, Vile masters the lost art of taking your time.
Kurt Vile 'Wakin' on a Pretty Daze' Rating: W W W W