Since his 2008 debut Constant Hitmaker, Kurt Vile has been making the type of music that many other musicians would trade their biggest hit for. Critically acclaimed and loved by fans the world over, since Vile left The War On Drugs and went solo he has become almost a cult figure to those in the know, and has consistently improved his recorded output through 2009’s Childish Prodigy and God Is Saying This To You, and 2011’s Smoke Ring For My Halo.
Sometimes an album title is an oblique reference to some part of the band’s music or artistic outlook, but Wakin’ On A Pretty Daze almost perfectly describes what can be found on album number five from the 33 year-old Philadelphia native. Vile’s music in the past has had more than a hint of stoner rock; not in a fuzzed-out Dinosaur Jr. kind of way, but more like a free-spirited spiritual guru kind of way – he’s going to help you turn on and tune in rather than drop out.
Nine-minute opener ‘Wakin On A Pretty Day’ is a chilled opening track by anyone’s standards. Part Jackson Browne circa 1978, part mid-summer daze, part laid-back stoner warmth, it carries a message that features in much of Vile’s work: bad shit happens all the time, but whatcha gonna do? With excellent guitar work that is an overlooked part of Vile’s arsenal, it shows this album to be his most spacious and laid-back effort to date.
Some of Vile’s riffs on Smoke Ring For My Halo were heavily Clapton-influenced, and the same could be said for the rock-y ‘KV Crimes’, while ‘Was All Talk’ is not dissimilar to the excellent ‘Freak Train’ from Childish Prodigy. Take a quick look at the running times of the songs on the album and you’ll notice the extended jams on ‘Too Hard’ (8:04), ‘Air Bud’ (6:30), and closer ‘Goldtone’ (10:26) make this Vile’s longest album to date, and also one of his best. The only point that could be made in the negative is that there isn’t a stand-out or obvious hit here, but Vile doesn’t seem to be the sort of musician to be bothered by such trivialities. This is an excellent album. (Matador)