Showing posts with label kurt vile. Show all posts
Showing posts with label kurt vile. Show all posts

Sunday, October 21, 2018

video review: 'bottle it in' by kurt vile

So this was... honestly, kind of tiring to review, but I'm happy I got it out anyway. Enjoy!

Next up... hmm, let's see if I can kill two birds with one stone and cover both Open Mike Eagle and Cloud Nothings soon, so stay tuned!

album review: 'bottle it in' by kurt vile

It's hard not to feel like Kurt Vile is going in the exact opposite direction I hoped he would.

Or at the very least it's hard to say if he's playing to his strengths, because I've always been of the opinion that when the man feels fit to string his ideas together he can craft some fascinating songs with great hooks that I'll recommend to this day. Hell, I put one of his biggest singles 'Pretty Pimpin' on my year-end list of the best songs of 2015, and I stand by that - yeah, the songs might coil and meander but so long as the hook stabilizes it's some great indie rock. It's also why I tend to like his earlier, garage-inspired records more than his newer stuff - less complex and psychedelic, sure, but there's a visceral catchiness and core of tension to his best work I really do appreciate.

And yet that seems like the last thing on his mind, which can get frustrating for me because while the shaggy song construction and perpetually stoned demeanour might give some the impression of laziness, I've never bought that. I've read interviews with Kurt Vile and the impression I've got is closer to the guy in the room who is so smart he might operate on a different detached plane of existence, where you cling to moments with a hook or stable progression because it's a clue of what level he's on. But over the past two projects I've heard increasingly less desire to get there: b'lieve i'm goin down felt increasingly lethargic and his project with Courtney Barnett Lotta Sea Lice felt more like an extended jam session than a fully composed piece, and with buzz suggesting this record was even more obtuse... well, I wouldn't say I was thrilled, but I was curious. So okay, what did we get on Bottle It In?

Monday, October 23, 2017

video review: 'lotta sea lice' by courtney barnett & kurt vile

So this was a pretty chill listen. Not much more than that, and the sloppiness did wear a little thin on me, but overall, not bad.

Friday, October 20, 2017

album review: 'lotta sea lice' by courtney barnett & kurt vile

So I think I've said this in the past, but sometimes there are collaborations that just make too much sense, almost to the point where when you hear about them you wonder how on earth you didn't think of it first. These are artists that might have a very similar style or attitude or type of production, it's just an artistic choice that fits. And right from the start, when a lot of critics heard that Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile were teaming up, the collective response was, 'well, duh, of course they are'. 

But I was a little more reticent. I'll be the first to admit I haven't quite fallen head over heels for Kurt Vile the way a lot of critics have over the past few years, mostly due to a naturalistic style of songwriting and composition that was right on the borderline of sloppy. And if possible I was even harder on Courtney Barnett's debut in 2015, easily one of my most contentious reviews where I just was not able to buy into the self-contained millennial angst that seemed to add up to a fair bit less than the sum of its parts, all of Vile's detachment but none of the bemusement or wry humor that could temper an edge that was not matched in her production. But I understood how Barnett and Vile could compliment each other, with songwriting that would likely prove as tangled and meandering as ever - especially if they were looking to explore their own artistic process - but my curiosity was more on the sound of the album, because while Kurt Vile started off near lo-fi and garage rock, his material has gotten a fair bit more sedate over the past couple of years. So where were they going to take this sound?

Thursday, October 1, 2015

video review: 'b'lieve i'm goin down...' by kurt vile

Well, this was a surprisingly easy review. Glad I did it, though, pretty solid album.

Next up will either be The Underachievers or Disclosure, gotten plenty of requests for both. Stay tuned!

album review: 'b'lieve i'm goin down...' by kurt vile

I think I've been a bit unfair to Kurt Vile in the past. 

See, when I covered his album Wakin On A Pretty Daze in 2013, I was still very much in the learning curve when it came to album reviews, and finding an entry point into his woozy brand of half-stoned meandering rock music was tricky for me. I definitely found a lot to like about his knack for a solid hook, his fascination with smoky Americana, and his lyrics that knowingly walked the line of profound and asinine, depending on what level of irony you operated on. Where I initially took issue was how it seemed like with every record his textures were getting cleaner and more polished and losing some of the jangling momentum he had brought when he used to be a member of The War On Drugs - even though I'd agree with most that Childish Prodigy and Constant Hitmaker were uneven, I liked the rougher edges on those albums and they have some of my favourite cuts.

As such, by the time we reached the meandering and cleanest-to-date record Wakin On A Pretty Daze, I could appreciate the writing and a lot of the hazier melodies and hooks, but the cleaner production just didn't really gel as well as I liked, especially with some of the more tightly regimented electronic beats and pseudo-psychedelic textures. I missed the momentum and grit, and yet it seemed like with every record we were losing that, so when I heard that b'lieve i'm goin down was going to be even cleaner, I wasn't sure what I was going to get here, especially with buzz suggesting this album was emphasizing even a bit of a country sound. So okay, very different entry point than fuzzed-out psychedelia and lo-fi indie rock, I can work with this - so what did Kurt Vile deliver here?

Sunday, August 4, 2013

album review: 'wakin on a pretty daze' by kurt vile (RETRO REVIEW)

Believe it or not, I don't go into albums looking to hate them or bash them. One of the reasons I review a lot of material is because I'm looking to be surprised or caught off-guard by something of shockingly good quality. I want to find that special album that blows my mind in a dozen conceivable ways. And more importantly, to quote Abed from Community, 'I like liking things'. Hell, at the beginning of the year, you probably couldn't have told me that one of the most pleasant surprises of the year was a 4-part album from a white female rapper called Skitszo, but Colette Carr's debut album was actually surprisingly decent.

That being said, it's extremely difficult to not immediately form an opinion in your mind about what an act will sound like when you first hear about them, and I'll admit that can adjust your expectations in one way or another. I'll admit that going into critically-acclaimed indie rock albums, I tend to have a sharper critical opinion than, say, a Backstreet Boys album. And knowing my own tastes, if anything, makes it all the worse, as my ability to prejudge material is all the sharper.

So when I heard about Kurt Vile's new album, it was hard not to immediately cast more than a few judgments on the guy without even hearing a single song. A critically acclaimed, Pitchfork-adored lo-fi indie rocker primarily on a laid-back guitar with hazy, borderline incomprehensible vocals and lyrics that could only pretend to make sense on a good day? You bet your ass i prejudged the hell out of this guy and very nearly decided to ignore this album entirely. As I've said before, I don't have a lot of patience for white guys with acoustic guitars, and if they're half-stoned or have pretensions to depth, that limited amount of patience drops to a critical low. And sure, there's Beck, but he proved to have extraordinary amounts of talent, both in instrumentation and songwriting (to say nothing of his particular brand of insanity), and I can't say many of the lo-fi acts that followed in his wake did much to blow me out of the water.

And so before reviewing Kurt Vile's Wakin On A Pretty Daze, an album title that just screamed stoner indie rock in the worst possible way, I took a deep breath and plowed through this guy's discography, prepared for song after song of bland, pretentious nothing that I'd be able to jettison out my mental airlock the second it was over.

I didn't get that, and believe me, that was as much of a surprise as anything. Even as I say this, I'm still a little flummoxed why Kurt Vile works while so many other act like him have either bored or infuriated me. And while I wouldn't quite call myself a fan of his material, I found myself liking much more of his songs than I actively disliked.

Let's start with the songwriting, which is arguably the spot I would have come down hardest if he had been any of his contemporaries - and while there is a certain profundity that shows up in his material, there were more nuggets of insight in his ramblings than I expected. It's almost impossible to know how many levels of irony or sarcasm Kurt Vile might be operating on, which adds a layer of ambiguity to his presentation I found intriguing. On top of that, he doesn't tend to leap into the trap of acoustic love songs - hell, I don't even think Kurt Vile could record a truly effective love song even if he tried. Most of that comes down to his delivery, which I would describe as something of a cross between Beck and Wayne Coyne if the latter was actively smoking pot over dropping acid. And while he does abuse vocal affects and reverb more than most, it contributes excellently to a certain atmosphere that completely justifies Kurt Vile's appeal.

You see, I'd almost hesitate to call Kurt Vile an acoustic act - a lot of his material might have roots in acoustic rhythmic guitar, but it is often swallowed up in distortion and static that permeates the track, creating a rich expansiveness that still manages to feel organic and real. It may flirt with psychedelia at points, but that's only to suit the hazy, dusty feel of the tracks. Many critics have drawn connections between Vile and the gritty guitar-based singer-songwriters of the 60s and early 70s, and I can definitely buy into that aesthetic, particularly when it feels as authentic as it does.

And, of course, it helps that Kurt Vile is a gifted instrumentalist and songwriter all on his own. The guitar lines are often mesmerizingly simple, but contain enough shifts and complexity to keep me wanting more, and the natural free-flowing nature of the writing is a perfect fit for it. I'm reminded of Kacey Musgraves in a very good way, and like with her, they share the same affection for downbeat, rural Americana that feels all too real, particularly because Vile doesn't hold back from including himself in his message. It feels like the events in Vile's songwriting could have really happened to him, or are thoughts coming from a real place, and that does wonders for the atmosphere of the album.

That being said, I do have my gripes with Kurt Vile, particularly considering the fact he seems to be losing some of that richer instrumental texture with more recent albums. The distortion is peeled back, the vocals are cleaner, everything feels that much more polished, and I don't feel that's the greatest choice for preserving the atmosphere. But on the other hand, it does do wonders for exposing the smarter elements of Vile's songwriting, which I do appreciate, even though I wish more of that distorted grit would return. So does Wakin On A Pretty Daze deliver on that?

Youtube review after the jump