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

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Kurt Vile doesn’t so much paint with his nomadic guitars as he leaves countless tiny loops of sound on a canvas. The collection of songs on b’lieve i'm goin down… act as musical pointillism, dabbing thousands of tiny dots that gradually blur into a larger whole — a feeling of shotgun-on-the-road trip wanderlust. With vintage Vile philosophizing, the record is a delicious continuation of his previous work. “Pretty Pimpin'” serves as a perfect album primer and the track most likely to stick to your brain on first listen. The twinkle is right back in Vile’s eye. He’s a stoner sensei with hair as tangled as his mind, and the minds of many of us, when he finds a stranger staring back from their mirror on “Pretty Pimpin’” — after all Vile notes, combing “never was my style.” It’s a song about brushing your teeth, failing to comb your hair and heading out the door, all the while feeling like you’re looking in from the outside at life, like Ebenezer Scrooge watching helplessly with the Ghost of Christmas Past.

Vile’s songs are long — only "Bad Omens,” a piano and reverb instrumental is under four minutes. But it’s not supreme faith in oneself or unflinching trust in the audience, just simply the right skills. Meandering has always been Vile’s MO, a vagabond with even less purpose or urgency that most, but more to say if you stick around. Many songs trail off in various directions, leaving room for your mind to wander away and then circle back whenever Kurt does. Or not. No big deal. Up to you, Vile seems to shrug with a smile. There’s also nothing overly fancy about his playing either, but in the big interludes between distinguishable verses is where Vile goes to work, weaving simple threads meticulously into his complex tapestry. The daze of "All in a Daze Work" and the whole album harkens back to “Walking on a Pretty Daze”, Vile’s fabulous last record. If possible, this new iteration sounds even more relaxed, transitioning back and forth between somber musings and cheeky tracks like "Lost My Head there," a little piano ditty with a groovy bassline. “I was feeling worse then the words come out, fell on some keys then this song walked out of me.” But he’s also capable of moments of heart-in-the-throat joy. Picking through “Stand Inside” until you love him back, Vile gushes in rush like someone speechlessly in love, only able to get out: “My god, I love you.” Hitting the road with “I'm an Outlaw,” Vile finds himself with a banjo for company and an organ comes along for “Dust Bunnies,” a song seemingly about forks in life’s road discovered at the end of a cigarette butt. “Took a puff on a cigarette, see what we get, an invigorating fix and black lung,” he says before adding, “there ain’t no manual to our minds, we’re always looking, baby, all the time.” Or maybe he just quit smoking? That’s the breaks with Vile the Irreverent, who doesn’t claim to have all the answers his guitar does.

"That's Life, tho (almost hate to say)" is the culmination of that idea. With the lonely highway feel of a less preachy “Into the Wild,” Vile never comes to any grand conclusions on purpose. He doesn’t have to. He’s just got to tell you about a good man dying to the tears of those who loved him. “That’s life though, so sad, so true.” It’s so circumspect that on paper the words ring hollow, but in context, Vile is the village idiot that fooled everybody. With his guitar licks by his side, you realize the difference between poignant and maudlin is all delivery. In the rap game sense, you can spit as hot or erudite as you want, but there will always be something to simplicity. Vile’s got deep simple in spades. He offers some advice for living a “"Life Like This”. As he puts it: “To do so you gotta roll with the punches, jump from the sweetest to the toughest of tough love.” Plucking one of the album’s loveliest melodies, Vile waxes gleefully on "Kidding Around” : “What’s the meaning of this song, eh yo what’s this piece of wood. I don’t care it sounds so pretty. Its change is so sublime. But wait, what’s the meaning of that last line?” Later, he relays his real message: “Ain’t it funny when others try to tell you what you’re trying to do, but I’m all ears, and, clearly. Have you not been listening to my pretty song?” The knockout blow after 12 long, lovely rounds is "Wild Imagination". Vile’s advice at the end of b’lieve i'm goin down…: “Give it some time, give it some time.”

Total Score: 9.0
Editors' Choice

Dylan Brown


Listening to and writing about music from Audiohammock's Washington, D.C., bureau, Dylan finds the fetid cesspool of American politics a rather nice place to live and work. He's a reporter by day, an Idahoan by birth and podcast guest by way of Audiohammock.
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