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Kurt Vile - B'lieve I'm Goin Down... 2LP
Kurt Vile scored a genuine word-of-mouth hit with his fifth album, Wakin on a Pretty Daze, its elongated rambles conjuring hazy half-memories of Laurel Canyon while feeling uniquely situated to modern confines. B'lieve I'm Goin Down..., released two years after that 2013 breakthrough, whittles away some of the excesses while retaining eccentricity, trading ten-minute sprawls with six-strings for woozy five-minute vamps on a piano. Electric guitars aren't entirely absent but they're used for coloring -- arriving unexpectedly as a wash of distortion or perhaps a bit of percussion -- on a record anchored by acoustic guitars and banjos. Such instruments may suggest B'lieve I'm Goin Down... is an exercise in introspection, another exposed nerve from a sensitive singer/songwriter, but Vile often favors feel over form, so this unfolds with the logic of a dream, details falling into a place so subtly they're felt, not heard. Often, B'lieve seems simple, rolling along with fingerpicked rhythms or barroom piano, and while it's certainly emotionally direct -- and, occasionally, musically direct too, nowhere more so than on the opening sequence of "Pretty Pimpin," "I'm an Outlaw," and "Dust Bunnies," a trilogy of precision that eases into a shifting stoned daydream -- B'lieve I'm Goin Down... is an impeccably arranged album beneath its soothing, sleepy surface, with every element assisting in an illusion of deep, shimmering, and alluring melancholy.