Kurt Vile – Bottle It In album review
Streaming available on: Apple music, Spotify, Amazon Music, Pandora
Contrary to the album’s title, previously chart-topping Triple-A genre artist Kurt Vile has a hard time “bottling it in” on his most recent release, “Bottle It In.” The album, released on October 12, 2018, is Vile’s twelfth album release since his start ten years ago. Vile takes his time on this album, meandering around saucy guitar fingering, deeply introspective lyrics, and some of the best sound layering in the Triple-A genre. With thirteen tracks, this is one of the Philadelphia songwriter’s longer releases. The album has two ten minute long pieces, described by Rolling Stone as “epic stoner dramas”. This is what listeners are used to hearing from Vile, but this album is pleasantly surprising with its moody yet upbeat tracks as well.
As usual, Kurt Vile’s guitar skills, artfully blended with realistic and entertaining lyrics, are unbeatable. Key tracks on this album, aside from the three 10 minute pieces (we’ll get to those later), are “Loading Zones,” “Yeah Bones,” “Rolling with the Flow,” and “One Trick Ponies.” These tracks are unique because they showcase Vile’s natural sound and talent, while also showing the direction he is heading in. As mentioned in “Rolling with the Flow,” “I ain’t ever growin’ old, so I keep on rollin’ with the flow”. Vile certainly rolls with the flow on this album, taking his time with explorative topics and lyrics, reflecting on his life and taking an introspective look at himself. Many of the songs on the album discuss his love life, and others discuss solely his personal experiences in life. The entire persona of this album is free-spirited, wandering, without a clear path or point, and that’s the beauty and the appeal of it. It is what makes it so interesting, so popular, so indie. Vile’s album, full of wanderlust and lacking in specific motivation, is very similar to the personalities and energy of the vast millennial audience which follows his music. The resounding message these listeners can find is that it is okay to not know exactly where you’re going, and to figure things out along the way.
The deeper message this album conveys, about finding your way along the journey, is echoed in Vile’s three longer, ten minute ballads on the album, “Bassackwards,” Bottle It In,” and “Skinny Mini”. These tracks echo the theme of the album by expressing the fact that, along a journey, stopping and lingering in certain places, hanging on ideas, is not always wrong. These three tracks are working their way to becoming Vile’s most popular songs, due to their relatability and mesmerizing guitar solos. While Vile’s skills on guitar are most often his claim to fame on the majority of his albums, these songs are guitar beauty and so much more. These three tracks are Vile’s most searching songs. Many of the lyrics are moody and haunting, such as
“Don’t tell them/ That you love them/ For your own sake” with the echo of a G string resonating in the background on “Bottle It In.” Another long epic, Skinny Mini, was filled with colorful imagery, such as “It’s a big old mold this world at a boiling point” and “She gets in your hair like bubble gum but you love it”. Songs with imagery this obscure are often extremely experimental and dangerous for artists, as they can either resonate with audiences or turn them off to the song completely. Skinny Mini was a success on this album for Vile, but it could have easily been disliked by his audience.
Vile struck pure gold in the relatability department on this album with “Bassackwards.” “Bassackwards” is the epitome of stoner alt rock, and with one listen it isn’t hard to tell why. When listening to “Bassackwards,” audiences can expect to find mid tempo beats with tempered guitar strumming, and lyrics such as “He was out of his mind and I was way out of mine / Then everything went backwards / With words coming out / Bassackwards.” This song takes its time telling a story, weaving in and out of consciousness and clarity, lost in space and time. The final 4 minutes of the songs are lyric-free, slow moments of Kurt Vile guitar bliss. “Bassackwards” is a golden track on this album, and in Vile’s repertoire, not only because of its relatability, but also due to its sheer originality.
Sheer originality is found throughout Vile’s music, but it is seen in this album especially. I expect to see more of this in his future projects, as he becomes even more of an established musician within the genre.