Sadness sometimes can be a sort of home base. In a non-melancholic way, but as an unforced, yet familiar place of feeling most like oneself. Kurt Vile’s sixth album, B’lieve im going down… is most certainly his home base. As the follow-up to the light-hearted and sunny, Walkin On A Pretty Daze, b’lieve doesn’t follow-up at all, but stands on its own as a deeper and darker LP all together. This charming collection of songs are Vile’s sadness groundtone, soaked in pleasurable, yet dismal questionings about himself, his lifestyle, and his reality in general.
The majority of the LP is threaded in slow guitar strums masked in the sound of Vile’s monotone deliverance, making it hard to hear comedic undertones of his lyricism. But Vile’s clever and dark humor is ever present, especially on pop tracks such as powerfully rhythmic album opener, “Pretty Pimpin” and “Dust Bunnies.” Vile questions the man glaring back at him in the mirror and after a small, humorous identity crisis he sings “oh silly me, that’s just me.” On “Dust Bunnies” he complains, “It’s hard to think with a squashed brain/let’s hope that don’t leave a permanent stain.”
Lyrically, Vile swerves down a dark road of introspection. And somehow magically remaining to do so in a light and buoyant way, he turns dark ideas around, making them elementary. Especially apparent on “That’s Life Tho (Almost Hate to Say it) where somber, laid-back electric chord progressions span across nearly 7 minutes of tender, intimate lyricism. And “Wheelhouse,” a standout track where guitar strings dance en menage round and round as Vile sings,“but you gotta be alone to figure things out sometimes/be alone when even in a crowd of friends and not so…” Vile meditates on finding solitude to reconstitute himself. “Wheelhouse” is Vile’s resource for discharge and in listening to it, it may be ours as well.
On b’lieve, Vile displays no shortage in progress and subtle changes in his interests, as he incorporates banjo picking on “I’m An Outlaw” and heavy piano playing throughout. “Lost My Head There,” a 7 minute piano ballad is filled with lofty peaks and valleys of composition as Vile proves just how important and (how hard) classic Americana can rock. “I was feeling worse then the words come out/Fell on some keys then this song walked out…”
As the rest of b’lieve pours out, it does as a lingering lullaby where perhaps the most appropriate listening spot would be seated around a campfire while Vile sings and strums along. On “Kidding Around,” Vile sings “what’s the meaning of this song and whats this piece of wood/I don’t care it sounds so pretty.” It is in Vile’s humorous commentary about how he makes music with his guitar in which the effortless genius shows. Simply, yet amazingly compelling b’lieve is emotional, yet breezy and some of Kurt Vile’s best work yet.