Six full length albums since 2008, along with a few EPs, paint Kurt Vile as somewhat of a prolific writer. Some people have a lot to say and have the talent to know how they want to say it. However the rub lies in the fact that Kurt Vile has always sounded like he’s not entirely sure what he wants to say, like he’s always trying to work through something.
His early work was characterised by mumbled dialogues that seemed like an internal conversation with himself as he thought about the world. Songs, albums even, played out like experiments that he was adjusting on the fly. This allowed a listener a great feeling of being in the moment with Vile, letting the tunes unfold as they would. If they floated along for seven minutes without any dynamic change or climax it didn’t matter because his out-loud thinking was so absorbing.
Stepping into the internal world of Kurt Vile is like stepping into a vast space. B’lieve I’m Going Down uses simple arrangements to convey the complexity of thought and existence.
Over the years he’s been slowly refining these experiments, deciding what works best for him, leaving behind a lot of the reverb of his debut Constant Hitmaker and articulating a little clearer. But in the grand scheme of things the changes from record to record are subtle and that’s part of his appeal. His wandering singer/songwriter quality fused with ever present aspects of lo-fi rock make him sound like he’s a part of the landscape that will be here forever, and you’ll want to keep visiting. Bruce Springsteen felt the same way.
While he’s definitely a rock artist, Kurt Vile is nothing if not a slow burner. If you are someone who lacks patience you may find yourself frustrated. Every album has been lengthy and B’lieve I’m Goin Down is no different, at over an hour long. Every song requires you to get on board for the duration of the journey, but if you do you won’t regret it.
What I’ve been building up to here is that this is a good album, quite possibly Kurt Vile’s best. The balance between the familiar sound of his early mumbling, meandering music is balanced here perfectly with a newer, cleaner sound. The pure sound of finger plucked guitar can’t be beaten, and the steady drums and percussion act like life-giving heartbeats that pump the blood needed for joyous piano playing. To top it all off, Vile’s charming vocals remind you of someone who is never quite in the same room as everyone else. His mind just operates on a slightly different plane. Sometimes he sounds like a subdued Christian Zucconi. Vile himself says it best on Wild Imagination, the last track of all things: “Give it some time.”
You don’t sense any huge developments throughout the album, but the unique turns of phrase, the sweet croons, melancholic philosophy, and beautiful loops all melt together [to] make it a special listen. Opener Pretty Pimpin’ is a rhythmic introduction to the record, an upbeat and humorous tale that probably best displays his clearer approach to song writing. It’s got an intriguing energy, despite Vile singing about seeing himself as a stranger, although admittedly this stranger was “pretty pimpin’.”
It’s the middle of the album that really impresses. It’s where we start to be absorbed into the fabric of Vile’s being. Melancholy comes right back with Wheelhouse, and Vile describes the contradiction that lies within him when he sings “sometimes I talk too much but I gotta get it out but I don’t wanna talk, I only wanna listen.” The repetitive loop in this one is something you can’t get away from, it holds you. Listening to his lyrics is at times sad, at others it’s a liberating learning experience.
Life Like This, combines flawlessly with Wheelhouse to deliver an incredible one-two ten minute section halfway through the record. It begins with a sweet little piano section but once again you get sucked into the vortex of the musical loop. Lyrically it’s not his strongest but the overlapped delivery gets you onside, and you realise maybe you do “wanna live a life like mine.”
From there the album flows so damn well, kicking on with All In A Daze Work, perhaps the most appropriate title to describe Kurt Vile. As we listen we realise that he’s in some kind of zone in which he’s pouring out all of this art but he doesn’t fully know where it’s coming from. We, the audience, are slowly but surely painted into his picture, and we’re all in this place that exists somewhere outside of the real world.