Stoner, slacker, loafer: just some of the words used ceaselessly by lazy journalists to describe the style of Kurt Vile's hazy song-craft. If the idle repetition of these superficial terms bothers the 35 year-old though, then he doesn't let it show. His latest LP is an endearing collection of slow-burning, dreamy arrangements, which find the singer wistfully contemplating the shifting nature of identity.
Vile is still not the strongest vocalist, but he has a flair for churning out subdued and heartfelt melodies that burrow their way into the listener's subconscious. His deadpan delivery and drawl belie a fierce wit, and his informal, conversational tone masks statements that meld black humour with cosmic significance. The showstopper in this regard is the bleakly ingenious 'That's Life, tho (almost hate to say)', which features a world-weary Vile pill-popping his way through a night out, desperate to nullify the barrage of feelings so he can feel like any other "certified badass out for a night on the town".
Lead single 'Pretty Pimpin' treads a similar path of existential confusion. It finds a puzzled Vile in front of the bathroom mirror, barely recognising the apparition gazing back at him, setting off a series of stream-of-consciousness musings about the fluid nature of the self. Other tracks find him forging similarly entertaining anecdotes about the mundanity of life, backed by little more than deceptively textured acoustic strums – part Nick Drake, part Bob Dylan. He yearns for nicotine on 'Dust Bunnies', conscious of its double-edged sword ("an invigorating fix and a black lung").
"There ain't no manual to our minds, we're always looking, baby, all the time", he murmurs on the same track in his inimitable casual drawl. Let's hope Kurt Vile keeps looking, and keeps writing songs about it.
Words: Benji Taylor
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