The differences are subtle, but they’re there. For example, the album cover. Last time around there was a grainy black and white cover. Simple and refrained. Nothing promising the dark folk and buzzing guitar contained within. Now, a bright blue sky with a graffiti-covered wall. Looking at it you get a feeling of openness. It makes you think of classic albums of days past. Those double albums that you could get lost in for a good part of the afternoon, then again in the evening. What Kurt Vile has put to tape this time around on Wakin On A Pretty Daze is the sound of a focused artist. Where Smoke Ring For My Halo kept its charm and allure layered in a tired drawl and a muffled musical kaliedoscope that hinted at something deep -and darkly humorous at times- wading in murky water, Wakin On a Pretty Daze is a musical statement. Still possessing Vile’s penchant for humor hid between the lines, it’s the kind of record that reminds you how much you miss hearing a buzzing electric guitar or the resonance of a large body acoustic as it jumps out of the speakers. Kurt Vile sounds like someone who loves making music on this record. No grandstanding or posturing. Just a monster double rock ‘n roll album.
“Wakin’ On A Pretty Day” opens the album with a ‘slow and steady’ groove, with Vile’s voice in its sleepy drawl. What starts as a laid back tune takes its time till we get to the mid section that turns things more urgent and keeps it up through the songs nearly 10 minutes. You don’t open an album with a 10 minute mantra unless you know it’s gonna keep the ADD-listening public’s attention. It does and them some. “KV Crimes” is an all out rocker, with Vile’s voice more in focus than it ever has been and the guitar snarly enough to please even the most jaded listener. You get the feeling that Vile loves his guitar listening to this song. His fingers move effortlessly over the fret board giving us irony-free rock ‘n roll. “Was All Talk” is a fast moving song. Urgent and pulsing, this is a soon-to-be classic Kurt Vile track. You get the feeling Vile has put away his Dinosaur Jr and punk records this time around and perused some Tom Petty and maybe even some Dire Straits. With a track like “Was All Talk” Kurt Vile proves himself an artist with not only songwriting chops, but longevity. “Girl Called Alex” is a beautiful low key song with just enough reverb to give it a dreamy lilt. “Never Run Away” is a perfect left field pop song. J Mascis would’ve sounded perfect singing this song on something like Green Mind. Once again Vile proves he’s a gifted songwriter, and one that in an alternate universe would have songs playing all over the radio(yes, in that alternate universe radio is still relevant). One of the best songs I’ve heard this year is “Shame Chamber”, a fun hybrid of AOR rock and full-on loose indie rock craziness. When Vile screams “Woo!” in the bridge you want to jump up and down and scream at the top of your lungs right along with him.
Throughout Wakin On A Pretty Daze Kurt Vile give us song after song of jangly, buzzing guitar, acoustic strums, and a carefree, buzzed spirit that is lacking on far too many albums as of late. In album closer “Goldtone” Vile admits “Sometimes when I get in my zone, you think I was stoned, but I never as they say ‘touch the stuff'”, and to some this may seem a revelation. But once you get through the 11 incredible tracks on this album, you realize that Vile is fueled more by life and his surroundings, and not by herb. No weed could create an album so focused and full of the joy of playing music as Wakin On A Pretty Daze has. It’s guitar rock of the highest order.
Kurt Vile is ready for his close up.
10 out of 10