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Kurt Vile’s Bottle It In: a dizzy musing on existence

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Bottle It In, Kurt Vile’s recently-released psychedelic folk-rock album, is full of tracks that are meditative and sedative in nature, especially 10-minute-long “Skinny Mini.” The slow pace and the constant rhythm of some songs on Bottle It In is likely to daze some listeners.

Since first releasing music with The War on Drugs in 2005, Vile’s own style has transformed from Bob Dylan-esque lyrics and melodies to dreamy pop/rock. Vile quit the group shortly after he joined it to focus more on his solo career and has experienced great success through this endeavour. Bottle It In, Vile’s seventh album, was recorded on the road. The distracted and drifting thoughts of a nonchalant traveler make their way through sporadic lyrics and repetitive guitar riffs on tracks like “Yeah Bones” and “One Trick Ponies.” Vile also seems to be concerned with mysticism and the spiritual side of life on Bottle it In. Although many of his remarks on the album suggest that Vile feels bound to a pointless existence, there are instances in which he includes references to the power of the mystical.

Subject matter on the 13-track LP ranges from death and family detachment in “Cold Was The Wind,” to recurring drug-induced hallucinations in “Mutinies.” At times, the songs on the album are difficult to follow and analyze for a deeper meaning because the lyrics come off as confused and senseless. Feelings of dread and anxiety dominate these two tracks, but Vile appears sincere in his portrayal of the past. However, this distorted message blends well with the psychedelic rock melodies reflecting the rock music of the 1960s.

High pitched vocals in the chorus of “Come Again” and vibrant banjos create a folksy atmosphere. Descriptions of scenery and setting are omnipresent on the track “Bassackwards,” where Vile jumps from promenading on the beach to exploring the surface of the moon. “Loading Zones,” the first track on the record, is one of the more memorable songs on the album both musically and lyrically. Both nostalgic and energetic, the track, on which Vile reflects on driving around his hometown and living a minimalist lifestyle, is made especially captivating by upbeat acoustic guitar melodies and a catchy chant of “I park for free!”

Bottle It In is a pensive, although sometimes scatterbrained album. Most tracks discuss serious, if vague, issues that affect us all, such as death and existential dread. Nevertheless, Vile approaches these matters in a disconnected manner as his repetitive lyrics and frequent monotone vocals reveal. The folk-rock melodies on the album complement Vile’s voice very well. As a singer-songwriter, Vile manages to retain the intimacy between himself and his audience through his candour. Albeit Bottle It In is lengthy at 13 tracks, it manages to keep listeners’ attention and elicits in us a desire to interpret the confusing messages behind its content.

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