Never has an attitude of truly not giving a shit about anything ever sounded quite so passionate. Seriously, this guy is a singing, playing, songwriting paradox. He’s nestled right into that sweet spot between lazy and impassioned.
This is Kurt Vile we’re talking about here.
The first I became aware of him was with his Childish Prodigy album in 2009. Followed by 2011’s Smoke Ring For My Halo on the Matador label, the loose attitude was evident in every aspect of the songs; in the playing, the production and the lyrics. I couldn’t understand why I fell in love with them so deeply. A song whose lyrics pretty much comprise of “He’s alright, he’s alright, he’s alright, he’s alright…” or “In my baby’s arms… in my baby’s arms… in my baby’s arms…” sung in a manner suggestive of a guy on the verge of nodding off, with production sounding like it was pulled together in one take with a four-track in a living room? Seriously, how does that work?
But the thing is, it did work. It was casual genius in full effect.
The following album, Wakin’ On A Pretty Daze, was a way more produced affair. Vile maintained his attitude and ease of play but with a fuller, richer, creamier sound. This new album, called B’lieve I’m Goin Down, is a further evolution in the same direction. The melodies are simple, the chords are comfortable like a pair of your old, favourite shoes, the lyrics carry you along effortlessly without any profound statements, and he still sounds like he’s on the verge of utter boredom whilst holding my interest. But, the production has reached a new level of musicality. It’s a far more diverse project musically-speaking, making use of piano and banjo lapsteel and resonator, harps and horns and synths; it’s acoustic, then it’s electric; it’s folk, then it’s rock. It’s a touch darker than the previous albums, but no less enjoyable. He’s still backed by the same guys, The Violators, which currently includes Jesse Trbovich on bass, guitar and sax, Rob Laakso on guitar and bass and Kyle Spence on drums.
If you’re already a fan, you are unlikely to be disappointed. He delivers the same quality without any feeling of repetition or stagnancy in the writing. If you’ve never heard of him before, why don’t you take the opportunity? The guy’s an artist; someone who has actually cultivated their own sound and it is a truly unmistakable sound.
Stand out tracks for me include Pretty Pimpin’ – the first single release of the album and probably the most accessible. All In a Daze Work, a moody little ballad with beautiful finger picked acoustic. And Kidding Around which is possibly the most reminiscent of his older favourites.
Don’t be mislead by his name; I promise, there is really nothing Vile or violating about these tunes.
B’lieve I’m Goin’ Down will be release on Matador on September 25th.
Check out the single Pretty Pimpin’ here: