The first time I heard Kurt Vile was back in 2011 after he released his breakthrough album Smoke Ring For My Halo. It was a swirling, cloudy record—the kind imagined through a stark grainy black and white filter, lyrically coping with laziness and isolation. Any glint of hope the record held lay in its shimmering instrumentation— Vile’s gorgeous guitar at the front and center of the mix. I was immediately hooked. Little did I know, Vile was a prominent figure in the Philadelphia music scene, having already released three full-length albums with his band The Violators, and was often compared to Bruce Springsteen for his singer/songwriter abilities and Americana influence.
Fast forward a year and I’m at the NME Awards Show in London at the infamous KOKO nightclub/venue. Real Estate had just left the stage and I was eagerly awaiting the night’s headliner--Kurt Vile and The Violators. As the band took stage and blasted into the opener “Can’t Come,” Smoke Ring For My Halo’s crisp and lonely sound was suddenly transformed into what I could only call a mammoth rock ‘n roll set. He even covered Springsteen’s “Downbound Train” before teaming up with former Spacemen 3 member Sonic Boom for a psychedelic rendition of the group’s classic “Amen/Hey Man.” The performance inspired me dig back into Vile’s catalogue and explore his band’s grittier pre-Smoke Ring sound.
This Tuesday, Vile releases his fifth studio album Wakin’ on a Pretty Daze. The double-LP features a logical musical progression, finding the recluse stepping out of his smoke-filled room and into the elements. “Wakin’ on a pretty day/Don’t know why I ever go away/It’s hard to explain/My love in these days,” he sings on the nine-minute opening title track, as the breezy guitars perfectly compliment a spring day. Whether it’s returning to the intensity of his back catalogue on the Bowie-like “KV Crimes” or churning out a simple pop jam on “Never Run Away,” the new record’s sound feels fuller in scope than its predecessor.
I’m really looking forward to spending more time with this record, especially as the weather grows nicer. Vile’s laid-back vocal delivery and expert guitar are just two of the many reasons people are willing to buy vinyl again and hear an entire album from front to back. Try this one out next time you’re soothing a hangover on your porch, particularly when it hits late April or early May--you won’t regret it.
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