By Jarrett Edmund, September 24 2015 —
American singer-songwriter Kurt Vile has made effortless-sounding music for his entire career. His carefree demeanor coupled with fuzzy backing guitars creates laid-back jams with a magnetic appeal. Vile now returns with his sixth studio album, b’lieve i’m goin’ down…, his most confident record yet.
On the album, Vile ditches the electric guitar fuzz that characterized his previous albums, perhaps because b’lieve was conceived entirely on the road. An accompanying note from Vile reveals inspiration for this album is still grounded in his lackadaisical lifestyle.
Album opener “Pretty Pimpin” fits that description exactly. Vile muses through an old cliché about the unrecognizable man in the mirror, but doesn’t seem to care. “So I laughed and I said, ‘oh silly me, that’s just me,’” Vile sings with a blasé indifference.
The album is a sonic shrug, and Vile spends b’lieve pinballing between complete apathy and unguarded wisdom. He takes on the role of the archetypal stoner psychologist, an attitude best captured on “That’s life, tho (almost hate to say),” a nonchalant ad-libbing that’s both the album’s centerpiece and its mantra. It’s sometimes hard to believe Vile actually writes his lyrics — it sounds like he’s just recording random musings about the meaning of life.
Musically, b’lieve is a casual masterpiece. Vile possesses a seemingly endless array of melancholic acoustic riffs that he occasionally pairs with keys, harps, horns and resonators. “I’m strumming unsuccessfully, but moreso just pressin’ keys,” coos Vile on “All in a Daze Work.”
Similar messages are sprawled across the album, but subtle variations in instruments and effects keep each song fresh. With several of Vile’s most daring vocal melodies to date, b’lieve represents a significant leap in confidence and self-awareness.
For those looking for a soundtrack to their autumn walks on campus, downtown or to nowhere in particular, b’lieve i’m goin down… is the perfect album. And don’t be surprised if you pick up some wisdom on the way.