I’ve been on a Kurt Vile kick for a while now. My introduction to Kurt was 2011’s Smoke Ring For My Halo and I immediately loved it, playing it nonstop, turning all my music listening friends onto him, etc. Anticipation for this newest release, Wakin On A Pretty Daze, was high…and it definitely delivered. I’ve been spinning this double record regularly since its April release, and have been blown away enough to (luckily) find and purchase the rest of his OOP catalog. His output just keeps getting better and refined with every release. I finally saw Kurt & The Violators live a few weeks ago at TURF, it was an amazing set…one of the best of the festival…too bad he didn’t have any merchandise for sale, I was really looking forward to getting a concert tee.
Oh well. Nonetheless, constantly rotating his discography and his show one of my summer’s live music highlights, it’s only fitting I review his latest release. Unlike most of my recent reviews, I’m not going into this one blind…in fact it’s my third spin this week.
The wife’s out for the night, the kids are in bed and I’m going to have some whiskey as I listen to this kick ass record.
Artist: Kurt Vile
Title: Wakin On A Pretty Daze
Catalog: OLE 998-2
Notes: Wakin On A Pretty Daze was released as both a regular double LP and deluxe double package. I opted to pay the extra 5 bucks or so for the deluxe which comes with blue pressed vinyl, a very cool alternate cover without the graffiti on the wall, a sheet of stickers of the graffiti icons that allow you to customize your cover, and limited to 3500 US copies. The cover is also printed on solid cardboard stock, gate folded, with custom printed LP inners & printed lyric sheet and includes a low & hi rez download card. This LP scores very high as far as tactile experience, with vivid color and tons of shit to look at and read while listening. Very fucking cool.
I guess the only (potential) downfall is the fact is it was pressed at United Record Pressing which from personal experience can output some duds. I have my fair share of URP records with infill problems and other manufacturing and QA problems. I bought this album new and everything’s NM (hard to tell with blue vinyl) with superb playback.
And it’s worth reiterating one more time; the deluxe issue is one cool set.
Side 1 – OLE-998-1A-RE1 RJ STERLING
Side 2 – OLE-998-1B RJ STERLING Ⓤ
Side 3 – OLE-998-1C RJ STERLING Ⓤ
Side 4 – OLE-998-1D RJ STERLING Ⓤ
Pressing Plant: United Record Pressing
Helped out my friend Paul a few days moving a swing set for his little girl. Paul’s a great guy and when asked if I was free and willing to help of course I said yes! He was looking for enough muscle and I was able to recruit Pete also without any effort. Testament to Paul’s character he paid for our labors with bottles of whisky. All I expected was a few beers to keep cool, so this was a nice surprise. So I took home a bottle of Forty Creek Barrel Select, a local whisky (distilled and aged less than an hour away in Grimsby, Ontario) made of up rye, barley and corn distillates aged for 6 to 10 years in American White Oak barrels, and blended before a 6 month finish in Sherry Cask Barrels. Sounds yummy!
Putting on the first side I remember how static-y these LPs are. A total dust magnet…the vinyl literally fishes floating dust right out of the air. Anyways, side A. It opens with the album’s title track (well almost), a mellow groove floating in a dream (or pretty daze I guess you can call it). The guitar and vocals are immediately recognized as Kurt. His laid back style illuminates stellar vibes out of the speakers. Wakin On a Pretty Day is one awesome tune…I liked it the first time and love it after incessant listens. This is a song that rewards you with repeated listens. The song moves with a fluidity that I don’t notice the guitar solos until they’re gone. The song’s outro bristles with psychedelia and as the song winds down a huge smile steals across my face. Killer track.
KV Crimes takes a 90 degree turn sound wise. It has a cool guitar opening and the song sounds like a slowed down AC/DC track. A very simple rhythm allows Kurt to meander between singing and guitar licks. I’ve had the volume on pretty low so far and it’s somehow adding to my enjoyment of the tune. I remember this song being good played loud too. Was All Talk shimmers back and forth and I still have the big smile from the opening track going strong. I’ve played this LP at least a dozen times if not more and still not a pop, tic, click or anything the whole side.
Making Music is Easy
The percussion on WAT is also fucking awesome. What the hell…the whole side was fucking awesome. All three outros had me totally dialed in and tripped out. The side finishes with a great rock & roll growl.
Flipping the record it’s easy to think the record may take a rest after side A’s greatness, but the first track sounds like a continuation of side A. Kurt’s telling a story about a Girl Called Alex with intermittent jingling guitar solos. A brief organ solo adds sparkle to the song. In fact, the entire song sparkles. And then Never Run Away starts. Fack man…what a tune! This one’s huge…it may be my favourite of the album. It plays as leisurely as the rest of the other tunes, with perhaps the catchiest lyrics of the bunch. It’s simply composed of guitar and drums with Kurt repeating “I know you’ll never run away” about 50 times throughout the tune.
Pure Rain is a testament to the quality of the songs so far. Although my least favourite thus far, it’s still a great playable tune. I have to admit it sounds monaural…has the whole LP been mono so far? I plan on paying closer attention and it immediately appears not. It’s more like Kurt is mixed in mono with left and right sounds piped in. Throughout all first LP, Kurt’s vocal & guitar have been front center stage. The sound stage is sufficient, better than most indie LPs these days.
The first LP was so awesome. On to the second LP, side C.
I’LL TRY NOT TO PARTY………………TOO HARD
Ha. The first song is Too Hard in which Kurt vaguely reminds me of a younger Neil Young due to country twang-ness qualities. I just love Vile’s transitions from vocal to guitar work. He truly has a unique style. His songs seem to last forever, so easy to get lost in them.
Shame Chamber effortlessly meanders similar to the album hence. Kurt’s yelping over a keyboard ditty sounds so cool. And I’m pretty sure I hear a cowbell. He yelps again, this time with some extra instruments joining the fun. The song finishes with a great outro…maybe the best so far? Snowflakes Are Dancing has more pace then up to this point, it’s basically Kurt rocking out, not losing an ounce of his signature sound. I hear the dog walking upstairs thru the baby monitor…let me turn the volume up a bit.
With lament I put on the last side. Amazing listen so far and looks like only two tracks to go. Air Bud’s (remember that movie?) opening synth-scape is a favourite of mine continuing with the album’s mood architecture. I wonder if this song was named after that lame 90’s movie. The song’s not lame though…I’ll be humming this tune to myself for hours if not days after. Sonically, my chosen of the album (I have been drinking). The song ends with the familiar synth-scape and words fail me.
The Goldtone song name not only sounds like a Stereolab title, but it actually echoes of Stereolab. (I tried my best to make that sentence make sense). Goldtone actually sounds similar to the opening track…I just may play side A again to compare. Actually, playing the whole album again appeals to me! Vibes pan across from left to right, the song tickles me in all those places I like to tickled. And just as the song starts to finish 10 minutes later the wife gets home. Fantastic timing.
I had an easy time finding the sweet spot for the listen. Although not the final word in sonics, there’s a nice separation of the instruments and Kurt’s tiniest guitar nuances come thru nicely. But most importantly, it breathes life. The album’s mix of folk rock and psychedelia interlace with an indie presence. Owning all of Kurt Vile’s LPs you definitely witness his maturation. Where God Is Saying This To You… and Smoke Ring For My Halo may have taken big steps forward, Wakin On A Pretty Daze takes a quantum jump. He did not run out of ideas in filling 2 LPs worth.
Kurt uses the same vocal delivery throughout the songs, prone to bouts of repeating a key lyric over and over again…with “Yeah” being a particular favourite of his. It’s an effectively catchy style. The songs an unhurried success.
I’ve been really enjoying the Forty Creek also. It’s a very flavourful whisky, with a subtle fruitiness. I definitely recommend it as a buy and try. It’s got a sweet price point and it’s distilled an aged just an hour or so down the QEW in Grimsby. Hundred Mile Diet baby.
The Fine Print:
This was not a review of the aforementioned vinyl LP or alcoholic drink, but a personal reflection on my experience of listening and imbibing. Such factors such as vinyl condition, pressing, intoxication, room size, rig, stylus wear and mastering may result in a different listening experience.