Its title may suggest otherwise, but the latest album from the Philadelphia Indie Rocker Kurt Vile is anything but restrained. Vile’s eighth studio album brims with myriads of dreamy images, packing in even more Shoegaze than his collaborative album with Courtney Barnett, Lotta Sea Lice. Suffice to say, Bottle It In floats on a sturdy sea of mellow acoustics before hitting experimental waves.
However, as all sea and music narratives alike go, the safest journeys are often the least enthralling – sadly this is what we find with the first few tracks of this particular album. Whilst the latter tracks abound in experiments and plots, opener “Loading Zones”, despite its panoply of chords, and its successor “Hysteria” fail to convey the desperate passion of their lyrics. Although the second track exhibits some form of exploration – namely through romantic chords and the use of a xylophone– it remains stuck in a continuous acoustic loop right up to its finish.
It is not until “Yeah Bones” that we hit the aforementioned ‘waves’ and reach a revision of Vile’s iconic sunshine Indie rock in the form of frenzied guitar and bluesy vocals. “Bassackwards”, on the other hand, constructs soft rock with other generic tools – we are talking synths, acoustic guitars and steel-sounding drums – as an illustration for Kurt Vile’s sumptuous voice. In terms of lyrical vocals and development, “Rollin With The Flow” is much the same.
“Check Baby” disturbs the acoustic peace with a shift towards the heavier side of rock; here synth notes and electric guitars govern the narrative. With the sound of a needle hitting a vinyl, in “Cold Was The Wind”, Vile uses a slightly different tactic – e.g. failsafe emblems of genre – to venture into vintage rock territory.
Slightly more relaxed in cadence and rippling with auditory water effects, the eponymous track pays a similar homage to the genre that bore Indie. What’s more, its drum-drenched scenery supply the perfect backdrop for Vile’s poignant lyrics, the like of which do not reappear until “Come Again”, a stark evocation of the clean
county sound of the artist’s earlier work. “Skinny Mini”, similarly, glistens with Kurt Vile’s renowned American twang, harking back to the folk-esque charm of his 2013 smash hit sequence Walking on a Pretty Daze.
Its predecessors are all noteworthy; so why was “(bottle back)” was chosen for the conclusion? Bursting with stylistic possibilities – for example, drums coiled in synths, it deserves a place at the start, if not the middle of the album, but has for some reason been assigned as the finisher. Considering that “Bottle It In” and “Skinny Mini” both last for more than 10 minutes, it is bemusing that the track has not been given a similar duration length or focus.
For ardent fans of Kurt Vile’s signature softening of Indie Rock, his latest album delivers a delightful feast for the ears – but for listeners that lean towards explorative music, it is worth skipping the first two tracks and sticking it out until the end.
review by Beth Andralojc