Kurt Vile B'lieve I'm Goin Down ...
That Kurt Vile’s fourth Matador Records LP dwells in mellow, melancholy space for much of its 61-minute runtime isn’t surprising, in and of itself; the Philly singer/songwriter has dropped into that zone before. What is unexpected: that it heads there after starting out like his most joyous project yet. The album’s first three tracks—perky, play-it-again single “Pretty Pimpin”; the badass, banjo-steered “I’m an Outlaw” (which name-checks two Byrds guitarists) and the organ-backed, cigarette-indicting (or does it?) “Dust Bunnies”—set up B’lieve I’m Goin Down … as a party starter before it, well, goes down, to a deep, dark place that’s not a ton of fun.
That doesn’t mean the songwriting’s way off from 2013’s Wakin on a Pretty Daze, Vile’s crowning jewel thus far. It’s just way same-ier, from tracks four through 12, and thus way less interesting. That stretch feels so downtempo, in fact, that when a couple cuts (“Life Like This,” “Lost My Head There”) shuffle just a little, they practically sound like Minor Threat in comparison to what surrounds them. The slower pace also places Vile’s lyrics in a brighter spotlight, which works in his favor when the storytelling soars (“She come flying through like a traveling gypsy-show tornado/Leaving us lying there bleeding” in “All in a Daze Work”) and against it when it thuds to the ground (“Just take a chillax man, forget about it” in “That’s Life, Tho (Almost Hate to Say)”).
It’s a quality but frustrating album that seems to carve out one path only to take another, to a place best visited only occasionally.