A funny thing happened when Matador began sending out promos of the latest Kurt Vile album, Walkin On A Pretty Day. The opening title track, when loaded into iTunes, clocked in at an epic 15:53. “Girl Called Alex” also broke the 10-minute mark; closer “Goldtone” weighed in at a whopping 17:24, about 10 minutes shorter than Vile’s second album, God Is Saying This To You…. In just three songs, it promised an epic (though perhaps progressive-rock-aspiring) follow-up to Vile’s 2011 classic, Smoke Ring For My Halo. Could it provide two hours of sweet smoke and hearken back to the dinosaur days of the double album? (Ex-Vile On Main Street? Kurt-sical Graffiti? Kurt Comes A-Vile?)
Alas, it was a glitch, a computer-confusing warp of song lengths (not to mention the album’s title: it’s actually called Wakin’ On a Pretty Daze). Clicking the files for the album a few times caused their durations to shift: “Wakin On A Pretty Day” turned into a resplendent slow burner that eased to an end just short of the 10-minute mark; “Alex” became a wistful 6:21. And “Goldtone” didn’t quite take up the entirety of Side D. Instead it was 10-plus minutes of Vile at his most contemplative, scrutinizing his songwriting process and suspending it in amber—or, as he puts it, “Concentrate my hurt into a gold tone.” But these timekeeping errors speak to Vile’s ability to conjure memory and sound so as to suspend, dilate, confound, and—like his forbearers Sonic Youth once desired—kill time. “Make the most outta your chill time, man,” he said last time around.
“Any darn fool can make something complex; it takes a genius to make something simple.” Attribute that line to Pete Seeger or Albert Einstein (or some fancy update of Helene Lagerberg’s “It’s easy to make things look hard, but hard to make things look easy”), but it’s become Kurt Vile’s modus operandi. “Making music is easy/ Watch me,” he craws on “All Talk”; yet even as you observe and listen, his craft only sounds uncomplicated. [...]