Kurt Vile - Wakin On a Pretty Daze (2013)

One of the reasons why 2013 was such a great year for music was because of albums like Kurt Vile‘s Wakin on a Pretty Daze, a lo-fi record released on the indie label Matador. It’s the kind of album that gives a year considerable depth, existing outside the fringes of the mainstream, but only just, especially after receiving very positive reviews and appearing on several year-end lists like Rolling Stone‘s. At 69 minutes, it’s quite long, and some songs stretch out to eight, nine or even ten minutes, but these extensions always feel justified due to the music’s organic feel. With a hazy sound that’s a mash up of ’90s lo-fi — his voice is even reminiscent of Pavement’s Stephen Malkmus — and ’70s album rock, Vile has plenty of muscle to put behind his alternative singer/songwriter-ish compositions.

The album is still pretty new to me (I discovered it whilst looking at year-end lists), so it will take a while for the lyrics to really settle in (it’s actually kind of hard to make them out in the first place), but Wakin on a Pretty Daze has an incredible sense of groove, grabbing hold with the first listen and continuing to deepen with additional passes. And some of these songs are absolutely dazzling, like the punchy “Snowflakes Are Dancing,” the floaty “Air Bud,” the mesmerizing “Wakin on a Pretty Day,” and “Goldtone,” two ten-minute stunners that bookend the record. Kurt Vile is definitely a talent to keep our eyes on in the years ahead. Highly recommended.

Kurt Vile has struck pay dirt by channeling his singer/songwriter persona through classic rock instrumentation and lo-fi production. The result is a rich tapestry of songs, and one of the best albums of the year.

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