Kurt Vile – Wakin On A Pretty Daze (album review)

Wakin On A Pretty Daze is the fifth full-length album from Philadelphia singer/songwriter, Kurt Vile, and might just be his finest yet. The album is full of warm, spacious soundscapes, occupied by songs that take their sweet time to unwind and explore the space afforded them. In Vile’s world, there’s no need for things to be hurried along or cut short; patience is a mantra . As he puts it on “Too Hard”: “Take your time, so they say / And that’s probably the best way to be”.

Wakin On A Pretty Daze is book-ended by a brace of songs that comfortably scrape the ten-minute mark. Beginning with the almost-but-not-quite title track, “Wakin On A Pretty Day”, the album quickly takes the mantle from its predecessor (2011’s excellent Smoke Rings For My Halo) as serene, wistful guitars labouredly intertwine, and Vile’s laconic, half-sung-half-mumbled vocals exude his stoner-Yoda wisdom. The album concludes with “Goldtone”, a blissed-out dream of a song with billowing guitar figures, celestial finger-picking, and hushed melodies. It’s not just a strong album cut; it’s also a career highlight.

Sandwiched between those two songs are the bar room stomp of “KV Crimes”, the breezy, synth-streaked “Was All Talk”, and the “woo”-filled “Shame Chamber”. “Girl Called Alex” trundles along slowly, gathering organs, synths, and anguished guitar solos in its wake; while “Pure Pain” layers acoustic guitars that hang in the air as Vile muses on windows and highways.

With the spaced-out jams of Wakin On A Pretty Daze, Vile captures the dark wistfulness of Where You Been-era Dinosaur Jr, the guitar histrionics of Crazy Horse-fueled Neil Young, and the blue-collar rock sentiments of Bruce Springsteen; and does so without ever sounding like anyone other than himself. Pretty Daze is Vile’s most accessible album to date, and the strongest so far in a succession of records that hint at even better things to come.

Bob Russell

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