Kurt Vile 

Wakin on a Pretty Daze

Philadelphia musician Kurt Vile injects classic rock with a heavy dose of early-'90s noise a la Sonic Youth and the best fingerpicking this side of Burt Jansch. Like his former band, The War on Drugs, he is a master at massaging pop songs into meditative anthems for stargazers everywhere.

His latest record is a psychedelic marathon powered by 8-bit drums and frenetic guitars—an endurance test more exciting than excruciating. Songs evoke thunderstorms as they meander and flare and howl. Pedal steel washes everything in AM-radio gold. "I wanna live all the time in my fantasy infinity, where I will never be abandoned," he pleads in the menacing "Girl Called Alex," before punctuating the next "I wanna..." with a smack of pissed-off guitar. It's the sound of an artist getting older but not softer. The self-loathing heard on previous albums isn't as present here—Vile recently became a father and his worries center on his family more. "There comes a time in every man's life when he's gotta take hold of the hand that ain't his / but it is," he says. The line kills me every time I hear it.

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