22 October 2015

Kurt Vile - B'lieve I'm Goin Down....

I have been sitting on this album for a while - this is due to my initial reaction to it (and that is something I will address at the end of the review), but for now let us introduce you to the artist and tell you a bit about the record.  This is the sixth album by Kurt Vile who was formally in The War on Drugs and plays with his backing band The Violators.  Over the course of his career, Mr Vile has made some interesting records that always seemed to follow their own paths in and out of the limelight.  Since the release of his last album 'Walkin on a Pretty Daze' though, his work has been reaching a much wider audience; in the UK both 'Walkin....' and this album have charted in the UK top 50 ('Walkin...' reached 41 & 'B'lieve...' reached 25).  But there seems to have been no effect on how the man creates a song.  It has been a heavily anticipated album, which has also reached the top 40 in America as well - so now it is time to see how the album has turned out.

Starting the album is “Pretty Pimpin’” and this is one of the best songs of 2015 – straight away you are introduced to a world where you do not recognise the person in the mirror and you have no idea what has happened in-between the last time you looked.  It has a simple riff which drives the song and a pedal steel guitar drone throughout that sounds like the sirens are calling you to the rocks to drown in their luscious pool of despair.  Whatever happens to the rest of the album, this song will be in the top ten of our songs of the year – that is a guaranteed fact and it can make the greyest of skies turn to sunshine when it is in the world.  “I’m An Outlaw” has a hard job following on from that Magnus and it does the decent thing by just being a pretty alternative country banjo led number, much like a lot of the songs of this album it is a repetitive number that relies a lot on the audience not minding that the music loops like a drone riff through your mind as the band play with a determined mental state that the devil is coming but they are in no hurry.  Lyrically it is looking at being outside of everything and heading nowhere at all, it is a good number that forefill its role nicely.  The third track is called “Dust Bunnies” and it took me a while to get into this number if I am honest, it reminded me a bit of Tall Tales & Silver Linings but with a lot more talent.  But the more I listened to it, the more I noticed the little details of the song – the nod of the hat to the song wonderful world, the wonderful keyboard song that underpins the song, the passion in the vocals – it is all there and it just needed a little time to evolve in my mind.  I am glad I gave it time, it is another gem of a song.  After this we are introduced to “That’s Life, tho (almost hate to say)” which is a slow song about the way of the world and how things might be different – but they never really change if we are honest.  The vocals sound as if they are straining to hit the lower notes at times here, as Kurt Ville has a nice high vocal style to his usual sound.  But musically it is a thoughtful number that brings the Americana experience to the world with a message of sadness and escapism, however it does feel at times as if sunshine is happening in the music.

“Wheelhouse” begins with some minimal percussion which is then joined by a dancing guitar plucking style that introduces a sad world to the listeners where friends are needed, but there is also a requirement for some alone time to figure things out is also essential.  It is a dark moment on this record and make no mistake that some people will find it hard going, Mr Vile has the right mix on this number vocal wise, it does go on a few loops too many for my taste but that is a personal thing and does not detract from the songs merits at all.  The half way point is marked with the piano introduction of “Life Like This” which is focus on how life it to be live and what will be done to achieve these goals.  The music is focused on the repetitive piano which is joined by a guitar at some point in the song, is feels sparse in places and then a bit crowded in others and it has a natural ebb and flow to it.  I like this song, but again it was one that took a while to make sense to me; I like it when songs have that sort of life and they make sense later on, just seems more natural in places.  With a heavy dark acoustic tone “All in a Daze Work” is a harsh number on the soul, it rolls around a black piece of guitar work that does not relent and Mr Vile sounds as if he is delivering a final message from the man upstairs that times are drawing near as everything starts unravel in his mind’s eye.  It is a struggle at time to listen to this number, it is that sort of song which can affect the whole day and you have to be ready for it.  Either way, it is an extremely well-crafted song that showcases how effective one man and a guitar can be on the soul when it is not ready for a soul searching number.  “Lost my Head there” is next and the rest of the band seem to be on hand to rescue Mr Kurt and the audience from those dark places that have been visited on this record.  It is a gentle walking song that has a nice pace and a set of lyrics that are wanting a change of scene.  It might not be my favourite song on this album, but when that almost cheerful piano came on to my head phone it sounds like a sunbeam of joy.  This once again shows how effective a song “All in a Daze Work” is at changing the mood of a listener.

“Stand Inside” starts with the guitar plucking and is joined by an ominous piano sound and a brooding sense of needing to be alone from someone, as you protect them from the world by placing them inside a safe place.  It might be a flight of fancy, but the lyrics are ones I cannot connect with if I am honest.  Maybe because I am a sucker from strong women who are not wanting to be protected like a precious thing in a glass cabinet, but it seems as if this song is a bit of a step back for women in places.  I might be misreading it and the intentions might be hidden in the worlds, but in places this song does not sit comfortably with me which is a shame as the music is wonderful.  The next song is "Bad Omens" is an instrumental track which sounds as if the world has ended ad the last band alive are playing as the apocalyptic winds blow what is left of the human race towards their judgements.  It is a song full of sorrow and remorse, it is also as beautiful as it is harrowing.  The penultimate song of the album is called "Kidding Around" which comes across with a very stripped back feeling and style, the lyrics are another enigma to the listener and even Kurt Vile is not too sure about what is happening.  It feels like it has been wrote for the end of the days when the lights are low and the fires are on.  There is a gentle feeling to it that is as light as a breeze and as good as almost anything off the album.  "Wild Imagination" ends the album with a similar gentle theme to "Kidding Around" and also to the end song from the latest Ash album.  It is a song about thinking about a person and looking at their image, the lyrics are very gentle and was over the listener as the album flows towards its end with a quite exit stage right - it seems fitting for this record.

I am very glad I did not follow my initial reaction about this record, at first I was not a fan apart from "Pretty Pimpin'" which is quite possibly my favourite song of 2015 and that has not changed since the first moment I listened to it.  But I felt that this was just a knee-jerk reaction to the fact I was listening to some pretty aggressive music from other acts and this album did not really stand a chance in the face of that onslaught.  But it has truly evolved as a record for me over the last month or so, it has show itself to be a much more mature album and not one to be took lightly.  Apart from one or two of the song, we have a well rounded album that would be perfect for any fan of the new wave of folk coming from America.  The album is certainly worth checking out and I am sure that over the years, it will mature even further.  However if you take anything away from this review (and if the man and his band read this) take away the fact that "Pretty Pimpin'" is a classic song that gets better with each listen - I truly adore it truly and I cannot praise it enough.

7 out of ten - This is good and well worth a check

Top track – Pretty Pimpin’

You can purchase B'lieve I'm Goin Down..... from Amazon

You can visit the Kurt Vile website here

You can follow their activities of Kurt Vile on Facebook here

You can stream B'lieve I'm Goin Down.... on Spotify here

You can stream B'lieve I'm Goin Down.... on Deezer here

You can stream B'lieve I'm Goin Down.... on Tidal here

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