It’s nice when an indie musician has been in the limelight enough to develop a recognisable persona. Or more perhaps that listeners are made to formulate their views around the persona rather than merely pigeonhole it. Danny Brown is one of them. Bradford Cox is another. Kurt Vile has crystallised into one. Indeed that hairy, guitar-wielding slacker has taken his ‘take-it-easy’ persona into parenthood. But funnily enough responsibility hasn’t made our man nervous, like Matt Berninger’s parental lament in the National’s ‘Afraid of Everyone’. In fact Vile has sunk into his character even more and given his songs room to breathe. I’ve got a feeling he’s not an uptight parent.
This point is immediately made in the spectacular nine-minute opener ‘Wakin On a Pretty Day,’ which plays as calming as it sounds. It will definitely become one of my summer regulars. The album continues in the same fashion, with each song averaging around five minutes, and not taking too much care for a chorus or poignant versing. This slackerness, as a few publications have pointed out, can sometimes be a bit irritating, and it is debateable how far Vile can get away with it. To start, Vile’s most standout single ‘Never Run Away’ doesn’t really compare with songs from his previous breakthrough album Smoke Ring for My Halo like ‘Baby’s Arms’ and ‘Jesus Fever’. Likewise the electronic drum-beat song ‘Was All Talk’ is no way near as epic as the earlier similar-sounding ‘Freak Train’.
Yet dissections aside, Wakin on a Pretty Daze, floats well. Though not chart-topping, the songs are all enjoyable, best appreciated as factors of the album as a whole. Indeed, as Daze suggests, the best way to enjoy the album is to get lost in it: the other long songs ‘Too Hard’ and ‘Goldtone’ are excellent starting points. And then ‘Shame Chamber’ (with a great ‘whoo!’ in the middle) and ‘Air Bud’ are good songs to liven up to.
The lack of urgency in this album can be contentious. For Vile’s two former albums had some overriding theme, Constant Hitmaker of a musician anxious to be a contender, and Smoke Ring for My Halo of a this musician struggling to cope, having become one. Now that Vile’s to some extent ‘made it’, I personally think he deserves this space he has given himself in Daze. It is not self-indulgent but highly enjoyable, listening to his musical ponderings for an hour. For now, at least, Vile has occupied a fruitful patch of his own musical persona, which I’m sure will only flourish even more as we too wake up sometime in summer and it’s actually sunny.