Album Review: Kurt Vile “Wakin On A Pretty Daze”

Album Review: Kurt Vile “Wakin On A Pretty Daze”

kurt_vile-wakin_on_a_pretty_daze

Album art from Matador Records

MATADOR – OLE-998-2

I first saw Kurt Vile at The End Of The Road Festival a couple of years ago.  It’s a brilliant festival and each year I’ve come back with a list of bands I’ve not seen or heard before.  Kurt Vile played six o’clock Sunday night.  He and a band consisting of two more guitarists created a storm of amplified thrashy 12 string and 6 string guitars, noisy, chaotic and wonderful.  Since then I’ve bought the albums as they came out and “Wakin On A Pretty Daze is the most recent, it’s also the best yet. Much as I love the lo-fi murkiness of “Smoke Ring For My Halo, “Wakin On A Pretty Daze” is so much more accessible.

It’s absolutely a studio album, with at times the whole band playing multiple instruments. It flows and works so well.  Occasionally albums recorded like this end up sounding slightly disjointed. “Wakin On A Pretty Daze though is full of coherent and memorable tunes.

Recording studios are hugely powerful places, both for good and bad, as a music lover it’s easy to fall into the less is more school of recording.  Tom Waits’ “Blue Valentines” is recorded live and straight to two track recorder.  No messing, no overdubs and no “we’ll fix it in the mix”.  What you hear is what they did and it’s hard not to argue that that’s music making at its purest and most magical. It’s the sound of people making music together and that’s always special.  That’s a studio used to capture a musical event.  Once it’s on those two tracks, that’s it.  At the other end of the spectrum are modern multi-track studios, the places where (most) modern pop music is cynically manufactured.  Look good but can’t sing?  Not a problem, we have auto-tune.

There is another way though and that’s studio-as-creative-tool.  In the case of “Wakin On A Pretty Daze it allows Kurt Vile and the Violators to add all the parts they need to make some truly great sounding music. To recreate a lot of the songs live would take around fifteen musicians. This is a guitar player’s album, laid back and with a summery vibe. The mix of acoustic and electric guitars works beautifully.  Everything sits so well in the mix.  It’s not polished, Kurt’s singing is a stoned sounding drawl and his guitar playing is outwardly simple, but it’s when all the parts he’s recorded for each song come together you realise how clever he’s been.

The album is full of good songs and if the first track stands out, it’s only because it is the first track.  A friend of mine summed it up nicely…

“I’m having trouble with this” he said, “I sat down to listen and so far I’ve played the first track three times!”.  I know what he means, but the opening riff of the second track is enough to convince you that you’re going to playing this album a lot.  Check out track six – opening with zingy, heavily affected acoustic before breaking into a repeated looping acoustic riff, full of big open strings that just work so well you need to listen to it again, just for the pleasure of it.  This could be the sound of summer 2013 and if so, it’s going to be a good summer.  Nigel Finn

 

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