If someone were to tell me that they had an album for me two listen which would feature several songs of 9 minutes or more sung and played in a largely languorous retro folk rock style that brought to mind an east coast Neil Young, I would not be rushing round their place to pick it up.
Too often massive length is simply an excuse for massive indulgence (see most prog rock)
After all aren’t the most famous pop/rock songs famous for their brevity above all else? The Beatles didn’t find it necessary to make ‘I wanna hold your hand’ 10 minutes long. They could nail that sucker in fewer than 3.
Yet in spite my better instincts I have found myself listening to Kurt Vile’s lengthy new album repeatedly. And little by little it has grown on me, like a pleasant rash.
It’s easy stoned feeling is the perfect accompaniment to the stifling heat haze of this New York summer with simple riffs repeated until they take up residence in the echo chamber of your mind sneaking up on you when you wander through the muggy subway and making you hum gently to yourself.
There’s melancholy at the height of these pretty melodies. In the song’s title track we see the world view of man who seems to destined to go round and round in circles
You can say I’ve been most all around
But I’m going nowhere.
While in a ‘Girl called Alex’ he talks about the desire to live in a fantasy world where he can ‘never be abandoned’.
Yet in spite of this the album never feels self-pitying or maudlin. This is man who recognizes his failings and disappointments but can live with them.
On the albums stunning 10 minute closer, Vile talks about concentrating his hurt into a ‘gold tone’
In the night when all hibernates I stay awake
Searching the deep, dark depths of my soul tone
It’s a simple metaphor that is the perfect fit for those circling guitar figures. Nothing fancy or particularly groundbreaking but who needs that when you have soulful depth and integrity?