Better than: Cocktails that make your lips turn gold.
Last night in Electric Lady Studios, about 90 people gathered in the famed recording studio. The reason? Philadelphia’s pensive guitar maestro (and longhair enthusiast) Kurt Vile hosted a listening party for his upcoming album Wakin on a Pretty Daze, out April 9th. Before most anybody showed up, Vile soundchecked a handful of songs–some old, some new, some unidentifiable–but as those “industry types” trotted in and began sipping free cocktails and pale ales, he packed up his guitar, his walkman CD player, and the copy of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road sitting next to his stool, and exited without much of a word. Nobody noticed.
Or maybe people did notice, but were a bit too interested in the Goldschlager-esque cocktails being given away at the bar. Nonetheless, Vile’s presence filled the room, as his new LP began to blast over the speakers. On first listen, it’s noticeably more aggressive than his previous, 2011’s Smoke Ring For My Halo, but still is full of the weirdly trembly Vile-voice and other weirdly trembly things that make Kurt Vile Kurt Vile. However, the production of Wakin on a Pretty Daze seems bigger, and like with the lead single, “Wakin on a Pretty Day,” sprinkles in shimmery, nostalgic melodies that, at the same time, look forward, optimistically, like those days in the springtime when you catch the first bit of warmth while still wearing your winter jacket.
After the record finished, the skinny-jeaned and longhaired Vile appeared again. He walked to the front of the studio, and sat down on a stool below an array of lightbulbs floating above. The studio’s historic sign hovered as he played three songs, including the record’s lead single, and the crowd took notice. Vile didn’t say much besides thanking those assembled and making a one-off comment about having to “play these songs acoustically.” Regardless, he eased into “Pretty Day,” softly strumming his guitar in very small, distinct ways, pausing at times to let a chord dangle, almost as a way to bait listeners. Spectators quieted and eventually sat down, forming a campfire-like circle as the songwriter from Philly told stories through song, his massive ball of brown hair wrapping around the microphone. “Wakin on the dawn of a day,” he quietly squawked, “I gotta think about what I gotta say.”
Critical Bias: I’ve spent one too many nights Feeling Things to Smoke Ring For My Halo. I’ll probably spend many more nights Feeling Things to Wakin on a Pretty Daze.