Kurt Vile (courtesy of Matador Records, PR)
b’lieve i’m goin down…
Singer and songwriter Kurt Vile is one of the more literate musicians making music today. With his sixth album, b’lieve i’m goin down…, Vile strengthens his reputation as a plain-spoken observer of both the universal human condition and his own inner workings.
The Philadelphia-born Vile first took to the banjo in his early teens, but he played it like a guitar, writing primitive songs and recording them himself. Influenced by the lo-fi, no-frills approach of artists like Beck and Pavement, around 2005 he co-founded The War On Drugs with Adam Granduciel. Despite their strong friendship, Vile left the band after just one album, 2008’s Wagonwheel Blues, to go solo.
On b’lieve i’m goin down…, the follow-up to his breakthrough record, 2013’s Wakin on a Pretty Daze, Vile’s songs are deeply candid, conversational, and evocative of a time and place. The acoustic and dusty “That’s Life, Tho (Almost Hate To Say)” blows like a hot breeze across a plain, populated by Vile’s stream-of-consciousness tumbleweeds: “When I go out I take pills to take the edge off for to just take a chillax, man, forget about it.”
The album’s opener, “Pretty Pimpin,” seems to be his wry attempt to understand himself. Vile’s lyrics use humor effectively; in “Dust Bunnies,” Vile observes: “You may think that it’s funny now that I got a headache like a shop vac coughin’ dust bunnies.” Perhaps his overall songwriting approach is revealed in “Lost My Head There” when he sings: “I was buggin out bout a couple 2, 3 thangs, picked up my microphone and start to sing, I was feelin worse… then the words come out, fell on some keys, then this song walked outta me.”
The acoustic guitar that eases through “All In A Daze Work” mesmerizes as it gently goes by whereas the instrumental “Bad Omens” allows Vile’s melodies to speak, even when he does not.
Vile doesn’t bother with brevity on this hour-long album. He allows his songs to flow, develop, and make their point. Each one drifts towards a horizon and often slowly fades away. Like an easygoing day, the album’s overall pace is relaxed and unhurried. Acoustic and electric guitars weave together, embellished by keyboards, synthesizers, and drum machines. Vile’s occasional use of the banjo gives the songs a folky feel, while his acoustic numbers reinforce the Americana aspect of his work. A deluxe version of the album, b’lieve i'm goin (deep) down…, is also available featuring additional songs.
Kurt Vile’s b’lieve i’m goin down… is an introspective, self-assured and frequently funny album. Although Vile’s admiration for Bob Dylan is apparent, he told Rolling Stone that his aim was to not be “all like Bob Dylan, Before The Flood.” Still, in some ways, this album is Vile’s own Blood On The Tracks; it’s a contemporary reflection on folk rock from an artist who, like Dylan, follows his own unique path.