It’s probably the last thirty seconds or so of ‘KV Crimes’ that best sum up Wakin on a Pretty Daze. The country twang of those gain-y guitars which see the track out capture – in what is admittedly a very small nutshell – the sound of an artist happy to take his time over his craft; happy to wear his well worn 70s rock influences on his sleeves, despite the fact that we’re more than familiar with them already (Wakin… is Kurt Vile‘s fifth studio album to date). Vile has never sought to reinvent the wheel musically, but one of his biggest draws has always been his bewitching ability to make albums of four or five minute songs that suck you in completely, so that all track of time is lost. And, in that respect, Wakin on a Pretty Daze is an undoubted success.
Thankfully, Wakin… is much more extensive than thirty seconds, with one track in particular breaching the ten minute mark – and Vile’s uncanny knack of shrouding simple guitar and drum sounds in amongst a constantly shifting fog of phaser and reverb ensures that it’s a journey that won’t feel like half of its full seventy minutes. Even so, it’s a considerably longer listen than the Philadelphian’s previously acclaimed Smoke Ring for My Halo, but where that LP dealt in raw emotion and dark themes – especially on tracks like ‘Baby’s Arms’, ‘Puppet to the Man’ and Runner Ups’ – Wakin on a Pretty Daze is far more philosophical, and for the most part, indulgent. It’s to Vile’s credit, then, that this is an album that comes across as anything but; something he appears all too aware of when he coolly declares on ‘All Talk’, “Making music is easy / Watch me”.
It certainly sounds like it on the eponymous opening track; all pedal-warped guitar hooks and easy-going vocal lines that seem to bleed in and out of one another throughout its duration. Closer ‘Goldtone’ is another one to lose track of time to; its rhythm-less ten minutes breezing in and out with an effortless ease. Cleverly though, Vile has the tact to spread his radio-ready tracks out – the ‘wey-ey-ey’s of ‘Never Run Away’ and country-rock of ‘Shame Chamber’ arrive at exactly the right points in the album, and prevent it from ever stagnating.
Alongside Vile’s revised approach to song structures sit his fascinating lyrics, which almost always take the form of self-prescribed life advice; another layer to the easy-going pace set throughout. “Wakin on a Pretty Day / Now I gotta think about what I wanna say” as he readies himself on the opener. The wry humour of previous works persists, too – “Sometimes when I get in my zone, you’d think I was stoned / But I never, as they say, touch the stuff”. You suspect such quips will do little to dispel the ‘slacker hero’ tag that the former forklift driver has come to attain, but the people who label him as such are probably the same people who “… used to say that I was all talk” on ‘All Talk’.
Ultimately, the album’s consistently leisurely pace and considerable length may put some off from making the journey through Wakin on a Pretty Daze in the first place, but those are really the only criticisms that can be levelled at an album that is woozy and indulgent in all the best possible ways. “‘Take your time’ so they say/ And that’s probably the best way to be”. Amen to that, Kurt.