Album of the Week: Kurt Vile – Bottle It In (2018 LP)

When I first sat down to listen to Kurt Vile’s new release, Bottle It In, I did not know what to expect. 75 minutes later, I still could not place what I had heard. It was after a good two hours and a half that the LP finally started growing on me. Don’t expect a b’lieve i’m goin down…, folky singer-songwriter sequel. This is something new, something better. This is not an album to listen to while cooking dinner or while being in the shower. If you don’t pay attention to the sophisticated record closely, the divers musical nuances and the elaborate lyrics will slip right by your ears.

After fifteen years and now seven albums in the business, Kurt Vile has made himself a name in the Indie Rock scene. Between touring, travelling, and spending time with his wife and kids, the former War On Drugs singer managed to find inspiration and time to create on the road. Bottle It In is his seventh solo album via Matador Records. The prelease of “Loading Zones” and “Bassackwards” gave a little taste of what to expect; alternative sound effects resting on mellow, guitar solo friendly tunes.

Just like a winding road, Bottle It In has its ups and downs. The opener “Loading Zones” is a hilarious ode to the parking struggles in Vile’s hometown Philadelphia. Bedded in between the witty and rebellious lyrics, “I park for free”, is a Jimi Hendrix like, Wha-Wha guitar solo that gives the track the edgy Kurt Vile sound that we love.

But “Hysteria” and “Yeah Bones” cannot quite follow up on that and feel rather dull. Both songs are mainly carried by Vile’s laconic Philly drawl, singing over repetitive strumming patterns. The electric guitar solos are cut too short to fully develop their potential.

Luckily, “Bassackwards” is a true Kurt Vile gem again. Every bar of the almost ten minute long single is packed with mellow psychedelic progressions and nostalgic lyrics. ‘But the sun went down and I couldn’t find another one / for a while.’ The soft melodic tune sounds more like a long, dream-like jam by the beach, than something produced in a studio.

The simple and catchy folk songs “One Trick Ponies” and “Rolling With The Flow” come across a little Dylan-esque and have strong sing-along potential. Vile, who has always been an admirer of the renowned artist, even performed live at Dylan’s 75th birthday festival. The low-key summer jams are made to listen to while cruising down Highway 61, windows down and sun shining on the face.

“Check Baby”, the seventh track on Bottle It In moves away from the cheery folk genre onto a darker bluesy sound. The fuzzy reverb noise of Vile’s electric guitar solo, á la Jimmy Page, manages to transport you back to the wild psychedelic rock era of the 70’s for eight full minutes.

It is followed by the title track, which is probably the most poignant and emotional on the album. Backed by a steady rhythm section and melodic fingerpicking, Kurt Vile sings about bottling in his feelings out of fear of being hurt.

“Mutinies” is another song that might have soft-hearted fans shed bitter tears. With unique fingerpicking and little use of the synth Vile creates a beautiful, yet melancholic single. The chill acoustic guitar play goes along effortlessly with the artist’s folky voice.

Contrary to the blue feels is the upbeat banjo tune “Come Again”. The banjo was the first instrument that Vile mastered and it still sounds right in his hands. He elegantly pairs it with some refined guitar picking. The indie pop track feels like ‘music and whiskey, warm and nurturing in a weird way’.

“Cold Was The Wind” is probably the most alternative and edgy song on Bottle It In. Vile fuses lo-fi quality sizzles with single drum rhythms and grungy lyrics, ‘Cross my heart and hope to die’. On top of it all, the artist layered some seagull screeches giving the track a lonely-winter-day-by-the-beach vibe. “Cold Was The Wind” is as gorgeously weird and inventive as one would expect it from no other but Kurt Vile.

Then, instead of bowing out on a high note, Vile goes in for another one. “Skinny Mini” is a ten-minute track, which would have been better off cut by half. The repetitive and unadventurous melody sounds as if Vile were looping on a never-ending intro to a potentially good song.

Nevertheless, this does not slow down the rocket ship Vile launched with the release of Bottle It In. He moves away from that overdone man-and-his-guitar genre and adds some electric sounds into the mix, creating his very own style. The guitarist has become more adventurous and sure of his skill, giving his music and voice space to blossom on longer tracks. He knows what he wants to say, and it is this heartfelt authenticity that we love so much about Kurt Vile.

With a mixed bag of genres and instruments, Bottle It In is an elaborate and intimate piece of music, written and sung by a distinctive talent. It sounds as if Vile had literally bottled in his feelings to unload them onto the record. We know Kurt Vile a little better now.

FOUR STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

Kurt Vile’s new release, Bottle It In hits stores this Friday, 12th October 2018.

The Australian leg of the Kurt Vile and The Violators world tour will kick off in April 2019 and feature RVG as a special guest.

Mon Apr 15 Enmore Theatre, Sydney
Tue Apr 16 Unibar, Wollongong
Wed Apr 17 ANU, Canberra
Mon Apr 22 Forum Melbourne
Sat Apr 27 The Gov, Adelaide
Sun Apr 28 Rosemount Hotel, Perth

Kurt Vile and The Violators will also performing at Bluesfest 2019.

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