12
Dec
13

Best New Albums of 2013! #12: Kurt Vile – Waking on a Pretty Daze

Running through the end of the month (with a short Christmas break), I’ll be running a post each weekday taking a look at one of my top 20 albums of the year, slowly working my way down to number one. Some I’ve reviewed previously for Bearded Gentlemen Music – I’ll provide links where necessary – and the entire list will eventually end up there, too. But for most of these records, this is the first time I’m writing about them at length, making this a chance to explain my choices in a little greater detail. Last year’s list is no longer online, but for 2011′s Best Canadian Music click here and for 2010′s list, click here.

#12: Kurt Vile – Waking on a Pretty Daze

At this point, my love for Neil Young is pretty well established. Not only do I think the world of his albums, but I’ve even written about his bootlegs. Hell, I even included one in this year-end list. So, I really mean it as a genuine compliment when I say Kurt Vile’s new album reminds me of my favorite Young records.

It’s not because they both write gorgeous sort-of folk, sort-of rock songs. Or because they both solo a bunch. It’s more of a feeling I get from this: laid-back, vaguely out of focus and reckless, but also with same kind of introspective songwriting.

It’s been interesting to watch Vile’s solo career progress. Back on Childish Prodigy, he had fuzzed-out rock like Hunchback and moved to a cleaner, more pop/folk sound for 2011’s Smoke Ring For My Halo. Here, he’s found a bit of a middle ground: the songs are fairly straightforward, with a foot firmly in guitar rock, but aren’t either as gritty or as bright as his past LPs.

Sometimes he sounds a little like J Mascis: KV Crimes could almost fit right in alongside Dinosaur Jr’s best. At others, his jammed-out folk rock reminds me of Young’s best: see the nine-minute title track, with its guitar peaks and valleys between verses. But he’s often found a middle ground where he sounds a little bit like a bunch of people, but mostly like nobody else in indie rock today. Tracks like Girl Called Alex, Goldtone or Shame Chamber are instantly recognizable as Vile’s music. And they’re some of the best rockers of 2013, too.

It’s not just the playing, either: sometimes, Vile’s lyrics show an introspective, questioning personality most rockers wouldn’t dare show. “Don’t know why I ever go away,” he sings on the title track, “It’s hard to explain my love in these days.” It’s hard to imagine, say, Vampire Weekend singing something that personal.

With Wakin on a Pretty Daze, Vile’s released his best album yet, showing both aspects of his alternately hard rocking and fingerpicking, folksy sides. It’s packed with great guitar playing and accessible, even for people who’d think someone who goes by the name Vile is a mohawked British punker; needless to say, even my dad likes this. And he owns almost everything Crazy Horse appears on. Recommended.

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