April 10, 2013

Test Spins: Kurt Vile, Wakin on a Pretty Daze

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Imagine the musical version of a red-hued, heavily lens-flared photo of an underemployed twenty something in aviator sunglasses on a beach. If you’re anything like me, you’re probably imagining “Wakin on a Pretty Day,” the opening track on Kurt Vile’s new album, Wakin on a Pretty Daze. The ten-minute track is simple and meandering without much progression, but it feels like one could listen to it for another 20 without losing interest. This song is the perfect introduction to a 70-minute journey filled with musical and lyrical movement that is almost zen in its balance.

Kurt Vile has been an indie staple for the latter half of the last decade, but he truly hit the limelight with his 2011 LP, Smoke Ring for My Halo. As he matured in life, so did he musically. Rather than veering off into aimless rambling, as some of Vile’s long older tracks had a tendency to do, every track on Wakin on a Pretty Daze is attentively composed. His notably intricate and perfectionist songwriting seems like it was effortlessly done in minutes even as he’s able to hold the listener’s attention seemingly into infinity. Throughout all 70 minutes, I never once looked at my watch. Instead, I felt like I could lounge in the songs’ musical warmth all day.

Producer John Agnello, who also produced Smoke Ring for My Halo, expertly sharpened Vile’s contemplative, nebulous ideas while keeping Wakin on a Pretty Daze the perfect representation of sunny peace. The first and last tracks provide serene bookends to a slightly more mature middle, featuring dreamy “Was All Talk,” guilty “Shame Chamber,” and sparkly “Too Hard,” whose lyrics try to balance maturity and carefree youthfulness. With lines like “I will promise not to smoke too much and I will promise not to party too hard,” it’s easy to see that Kurt Vile is trying to reconcile his relaxed past with the reality of being a father, all without ever getting too heavy.

The tracks on Wakin on a Pretty Daze tend to blend together, but not in the way tracks on an unmemorable album do. Instead, they blend like the days and weeks of a delightfully uneventful suburban summer — calm, chill and at ease.

Original Author: Michael Sosnick