Wakin on a Pretty Daze
May 15, 2013 Web Exclusive
Kurt Vile announced Wakin on a Pretty Daze by mobilizing a team to create a mural on a building in his native Philadelphia—the same mural that appears on the cover of the album along with Vile himself, hands shrugged in his pockets, standing off to the side. It's telling that Vile's album covers—and most of his press photos—don't often make him the focal point of the picture. He doesn't blend into the background, but he's consistently depicted as a part of something much larger and more expansive. It's similar to the approach Vile takes to songwriting and arranging—especially on Daze, which, though replete with long, sprawling guitar jams, definitely has a voice. Vile's clearly at the center, weaving this woozy world together. And just like those pictures of Vile never look unfocused, Daze never sounds aimless or unwieldy.
On Daze, the tension between self-consciousness and bliss permeates every aspect of every song. The straightforward, punchy pop of "Shame Chamber" buoys sentiments like "Feelin' bad in the best way a man can." In the past, Vile's been criticized for writing lyrics that are a little too stoner-simplistic to be worth parsing, but Vile's conversations with himself ("Sometimes when I get in my zone you'd think I was stoned/But I never, as they say, touch the stuff") and non sequiturs ("I live along a straight line/Nothing always comes to mind") have a charming—if dizzying—internal logic.
Daze demands time in order to fully appreciate it, promising new discoveries with successive listens. The little intricacies buried in the songs keep them rewarding and fresh—the shuffling "Boys of Summer"-style beat propping up "Was All Talk," the doomy organ riff on "Girl Called Alex"—which is why lobbing adjectives like "sleepy" and "apathetic" at Vile seems misguided. There's a difference between being at peace with what is and refusing to engage with the world. Someone who didn't care wouldn't be able to make such nuanced, carefully paced, self-aware songs sound blissful and unburdened. Sometimes those on the edge of the frame are the most observant. (www.kurtvile.com)
Author rating: 8/10
Average reader rating: 9/10