Kurt Vile - 'Wakin' on a Pretty Daze'
Folk rock bands are about as common as hard-ons at a Miss Universe pageant right now. Bands such as Boy & Bear and Mumford & Sons have taken over airwaves in Australia and worldwide in recent years. Perth is also teaming with Folky-tinged rock bands playing our local venues every weekend. Now there is absolutely nothing wrong with this, apart from the fact that some of these bands are very good whilst some others should probably cut their beards and find a day job. So this is where I’m going to help out by pointing you in the right direction.
Kurt Vile is a Philadelphian folk musician that has been producing music and touring for almost 10 years now. The 33 year old has just released his 5th studio album Wakin On A Pretty Daze. I first got into Kurt with the release of his excellent 2011 album Smoke Ring For My Halo. On listening to that album it became fairly apparent to me that this guy has some pretty special qualities. He is a much better than your average folk guitarist, he has a wonderfully drawly voice and most of all, he has song writing chops that would make Bob Dylan get all hot and flustered. His laid back style on that album however would not necessarily appeal to everyone. Wakin On A Pretty Daze conversely, is a whole other story.
This album uses Smoke Ring as a foundation and then builds a 30 storey skyscraper on top of it. That’s the level of progression that Pretty Daze shows. There has been a large amount of extra instrumentation added to Vile’s drawl and spidery guitar playing, including electronic flourishes on multiple tracks (Check out the lovely Air Bud...yes that is named after that movie about a basketball playing dog). The production has noticeably improved, to a point where it is impossible to class him as a “Lo-Fi’ artist anymore. The result is a fuller, crisper sounding record.
Kurt’s composition skills have also noticeably progressed. There are a total of 7 songs (out of 11) that come in at over five minutes in length. The impressive thing is that none of them feel stretched or forced. Some of the melodies and instrumental sections that he and multi-instrumentalist mates Jesse Trbovich and Rob Laakso come up with are truly superb.
As fair as stand out tracks go Pure Pain is an undoubted highlight. The guitar in that song just gets me! (check it out below) Other than that, the nine-minute opening jam; Walking On A Pretty Day, Shame Chamber, the rocker KV Crimes and the aforementioned Air Bud all stand out in particular. Having said this, there isn’t really a weak track on here at all.
It’s likely that this album still won’t get Kurt Vile to the mainstream spotlight but don’t be surprised if critics place it very highly on end of year lists. The big name folk bands may rake in the record sales and massive crowds but they are all dwarfed by the talent of this one guy and the brilliance of this album.