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Kurt Vile - Wakin on a Pretty Daze Album Cover
Author's Rating
Vocals 9
Musicianship 9
Lyrics 9
Production 9
Creativity 9
Lasting Value 9
Reviewer Tilt 9
Final Verdict: 90%
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Kurt Vile - Wakin on a Pretty Daze

Reviewed by: Jeremy Aaron (04/24/13)
Kurt Vile - Wakin on a Pretty Daze
Record Label: Matador
Release Date: April 9, 2013

Life would be a lot different-- some might say better-- if it were like the old Price Is Right game "One Away". When faced with an important decision, or any decision, really, because who knows in the moment what decisions are ultimately important, you could call out to the heavens with a figurative "Ladies, do I have at least one number right?" and have some idea whether what you are about to do is going to fuck your whole life up completely or just a little bit. But you just never know. Worse still, as much as we'd like to think otherwise, our own reasoning capacity isn't much more sophisticated than Pavlov's dogs' cum hoc ergo propter hoc sense of causality, so even after the fact, it's not always clear where exactly we went wrong or right.

It's the angst that launched a thousand earnest '90s indie bands who soundtracked the youths of a generation of awkward suburban kids. Those bands still mean something to me, but Kurt Vile's my guy now. On a standout track from 2011's Smoke Ring for My Halo, Vile shrugged, "My best friend's long gone, but I got runner ups." Smoke Ring wasn't necessarily a happy record, but throughout, Vile's subtle suggestion is that, to look at something that might cause great distress to people and just not give a shit about it, is to be truly empowered. In that album's context, Vile being sort of an indifferent observer in his own life sounded placid, but well short of rah-rah inspirational. Wakin on a Pretty Daze is something of a turn for the positive, as the man sounds not just at peace or content, but often cheerful. Make no mistake though-- Wakin on a Pretty Daze is distinctively Kurt Vile. One of the things that drew me so much into Smoke Ring was Vile's similarity to Lou Reed's deadpanned and subtly subversive delivery, but at this juncture, comparisons to other artists seem especially meaningless.

Compared to the relatively taut Smoke Ring, Wakin's songs are allowed more breathing room, with six of the eleven tracks exceeding the six-minute mark, including the nine-plus minute opener "Wakin on a Pretty Day". On those grounds, you'd be tempted to call them "epic," but with songs this intimate and grounded, that would be a flat-out lie. On that breezy opening cut, which adopts Vile's usual strummy guitar styling with a little extra spring in its step, we get a glimpse of the sort of things that occupy Vile's headspace ("I gotta think about what wisecrack I'm gonna drop along the way today"), and the sort of things that don't ("Don't worry about a thing, it's only dying"). What's cognitive dissonance for some is just par for the course in Kurt Vile's world.

With such perpetual passivity and his overall image, when Vile sings, "Sometimes, when I get in my zone, you'd think I was stoned, but I never, as they say, touch the stuff," on "Goldtone", it's easy to suspect he's just pulling our leg, but I think there's something to be gained for suspending disbelief and taking those words at face value. While medication, be it self- or physician-administered, can aid in achieving a particular mindset, it's not a necessity, a thought I find refreshing, though I can't say I always live by it. For Vile, making these songs is the tonic: "I might be adrift, but I'm still alert, concentrate my hurt into a gold tone," he sings. For others among us, it's listening to those same songs that does the trick.

For fans of Vile's dirge-ier sounding material like "Baby's Arms", Wakin, despite containing some sunnier stuff, still boasts much to like, most notably "Was All Talk", a tune that finds him getting the last laugh over some detractors. "There was a time in my life when they thought I was all talk," he tells us. But now? "Makin' music is easy. Watch me." It's a fitting lyric; there aren't many artists recording today who make songwriting seem more natural and effortless than Kurt Vile.

In a recent talk, the Dalai Lama opined that the key to good health and longevity, he believed, was peace of mind. While nine out of ten physicians recommend supplementing that with a healthy diet and exercise, I tend to agree, at least in spirit. If we're to take His Holiness at his word, Kurt Vile may well live forever if Wakin on a Pretty Daze is any indication. The unlikelihood of immortality notwithstanding, there are worse ways to play out a finite existence than placing a high value on the sort of inner serenity that's becoming Vile's claim to fame.
 
Displaying posts 1 - 15 of 16
02:02 PM on 04/24/13
#2
SmeezyBeezy
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WAKIN ON A PRETTY DAY IS THE BEST SINGLE OF THE YEAR
03:06 PM on 04/24/13
#3
dhayes
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WAKIN ON A PRETTY DAY IS THE BEST SINGLE OF THE YEAR

WHY ARE WE YELLING?!

Srsly tho, probably my favorite album so far this year...

...until Trouble Will Find Me comes out.

edit- Jeremy, speaking of The National, are you reviewing the new one? Your review of High Violet is my favorite review I've read on this site.
07:13 PM on 04/24/13
#4
Jeremy Aaron
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WHY ARE WE YELLING?!

Srsly tho, probably my favorite album so far this year...

...until Trouble Will Find Me comes out.

edit- Jeremy, speaking of The National, are you reviewing the new one? Your review of High Violet is my favorite review I've read on this site.

I appreciate that someone remembers that one, considering it was three years ago. I guess a lot of people liked it at the time, and I'm glad for that, but I couldn't have written that review without the album being what it was.

Someone else is handling Trouble currently, but if they end up not doing it I may take it on. This review was my first foray into reviewing since the Avett Brothers album last fall, and it kind of happened by accident. Just starting typing random thoughts and voila. I'm in an inspired frame of mind at the moment, so I'll probably be more active in the near future, but I don't have anything specific planned.
08:56 PM on 04/24/13
#5
Gregory Robson
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Excited to see him at Hopscotch later this year.
08:19 AM on 04/25/13
#6
TomAce
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so good
09:11 AM on 04/25/13
#7
DeathOrGlory
I'm not fucked, not quite
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'Goldtone' is one of those songs that, despite being 10 minutes long, seems like it zips by. I'm incredibly impressed by this album. It has outdone Smoke Ring For My Halo easily.
10:19 AM on 04/25/13
#8
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Pretty bizarre review. You seemed to jump around an awful lot, and I could hardly make out what you were trying to say. Try avoiding the overwhelming number of analogies, allusions, and compound sentences. With a little more focus, this could have been a decent review. C+.
10:27 AM on 04/25/13
#9
Gregory Robson
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Pretty bizarre review. You seemed to jump around an awful lot, and I could hardly make out what you were trying to say. Try avoiding the overwhelming number of analogies, allusions, and compound sentences. With a little more focus, this could have been a decent review. C+.
So you're grading the review, not the album? Oy vey.
12:45 PM on 04/25/13
Memphis
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Loved the review, esp. the first paragraph... And such a great album, a serious AOTY contender. :)
04:26 PM on 04/25/13
Steeeve Perry
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I appreciate that someone remembers that one, considering it was three years ago. I guess a lot of people liked it at the time, and I'm glad for that, but I couldn't have written that review without the album being what it was.

Someone else is handling Trouble currently, but if they end up not doing it I may take it on. This review was my first foray into reviewing since the Avett Brothers album last fall, and it kind of happened by accident. Just starting typing random thoughts and voila. I'm in an inspired frame of mind at the moment, so I'll probably be more active in the near future, but I don't have anything specific planned.
What are your initial impressions of Trouble Will Find Me? I have noted that Pitchfork hasn't given either of the first two tracks a Best New Song nod, which generally indicates their review will be below an 8.
And Walking on a Pretty Daze is good, though I'm not super into that kind of music. Don't like Real Estate for instance.
08:11 PM on 04/25/13
Chris Collum
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I appreciate that someone remembers that one, considering it was three years ago. I guess a lot of people liked it at the time, and I'm glad for that, but I couldn't have written that review without the album being what it was.

Someone else is handling Trouble currently, but if they end up not doing it I may take it on. This review was my first foray into reviewing since the Avett Brothers album last fall, and it kind of happened by accident. Just starting typing random thoughts and voila. I'm in an inspired frame of mind at the moment, so I'll probably be more active in the near future, but I don't have anything specific planned.
I too adore your High Violet review and think it's the best one on this site, but sorry man I've got a death grip on covering Trouble haha. You should write more though!
09:02 AM on 04/26/13
Jeremy Aaron
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What are your initial impressions of Trouble Will Find Me? I have noted that Pitchfork hasn't given either of the first two tracks a Best New Song nod, which generally indicates their review will be below an 8.
And Walking on a Pretty Daze is good, though I'm not super into that kind of music. Don't like Real Estate for instance.

I haven't heard it yet. I don't seek out leaks or promos much anymore. I have listened to the tracks that have premiered and found myself... underwhelmed. But I was also indifferent to "Bloodbuzz Ohio" the first time I heard it. I'll wait to pass judgment. The National are a much better band when you can press play and let yourself be drawn into their world for 45 minutes.
07:55 PM on 04/26/13
iamsoindie
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So you're grading the review, not the album? Oy vey.

Sorry to the reviewer. I probably sounded like a dick. I was just joking. Review had potential.... Just a little convoluted.
03:49 PM on 04/28/13
Steeeve Perry
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I haven't heard it yet. I don't seek out leaks or promos much anymore. I have listened to the tracks that have premiered and found myself... underwhelmed. But I was also indifferent to "Bloodbuzz Ohio" the first time I heard it. I'll wait to pass judgment. The National are a much better band when you can press play and let yourself be drawn into their world for 45 minutes.
Yeah, Demons is a good track but definitely not amongst their best. But I loved Bloodbuzz the first time I heard it. It seems this record will be a little more uptempo than High Violet which I'm looking forward to, since Alligator is still my favourite of theirs.
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