Album Review

b'lieve i'm goin down...

b'lieve i'm goin down...

by Kurt Vile

Matador Records
7 / 10
25th September 2015

Reviewed by Gerry Le Roux

Since the release of Smoke Rings for my Halo in 2011, Kurt Vile has been steadily moving away from the low-fi fuzz-pop of earlier albums toward a more classic, folky, introspective style - a direction pursued to the extreme on his new release b'lieve i'm goin down... Despite shades of classic bedsit folk a la Nick Drake or Elliot Smith, however, his sounds is thoroughly modern, undeniably a product of, and for, his own generation.

On b'lieve... Vile reels in the dense, sprawling guitar jams of its predecessor Wakin on a Pretty Daze in favour of more concise, repetitive musical patterns featuring largely acoustic instrumentation - guitar, piano, banjo - with his twangy electric making only the occasional appearance. After the uptempo start of lead single 'Pretty Pimpin', the album floats along dreamily. Vile seems intent on hiding the carefully crafted details of his music inside simple-sounding tunes, with lyrics delivered in a detached drawl. Due to the sparse instrumentation and meandering melodies, the music has a trance-like quality, allowing songs to flow into each other - it's a quiet album that can disappear into the background if you don't pay close attention.

There's a distinct late-night downer feel to b'lieve.... Vile faces inward, with lyrics like "on the brink of self-implosion, alone in the crowd" on 'I'm an Outlaw' and "you gotta be alone to figure things out sometimes" on 'Wheelhouse' - sketching a picture of isolation and introspection. Its reticence is perhaps the albums biggest "flaw". As stimulating as it is to decipher the dense wordplay and study the melodic subtleties, Vile keeps you at arms length, making it a difficult album to get emotionally attached to, to really love.

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