Album Review: Kurt Vile – Bottle It In

By Abby Jeffers, Contributor
[Matador; 2018]
Rating: 6/10

Key Tracks: “One Trick Ponies”, “Bassackwards”, “Mutinies”

Almost exactly a year after his last release, a collaborative record with Courtney Barnett, indie-rock multi-instrumentalist Kurt Vile has released his seventh studio album, Bottle It In. At times, the record leans more towards folk than rock, both in Vile’s straightforward, honest lyrics and his slight vocal twang on top of guitar and banjo fingerpicking. Its first song, “Loading Zones”, embodies this well; it is a light and layered track, detailing the adventure of avoiding parking tickets and meters, but Vile’s sound skews somewhere near Americana in its bluesy tone.

Read more: Album Review: Swearin’ – Fall Into the Sun

Bottle It In also progresses from polished production to a lo-fi sound throughout its course, adding a slight hazy feeling to the already-repetitive album. “Bottle It In” and “Mutinies” fall at the beginning of this shift, and the former features a steady crackling sound underneath its 10 minutes of indie rock, as if being played on a vinyl record. “Mutinies”, on the other hand, features the same faded guitar lick replicated throughout the track, allowing the focus to remain on Vile’s smooth vocals and open lyrics about mental health and technology, “The mutinies in my head keep staying / I take pills and pills to try and make ’em go away”. Vile mixes a splash of his signature dry humor in with those moments of vulnerability. On “One Trick Ponies”, while singing about the people he has cared about (“Loved you all a long, long while”), Vile throws in a line about having a “soft spot for repetition” during the second verse, hinting at his penchant for reiterating musical and lyrical motifs while songwriting, especially on this track.

Clocking in at just around 80 minutes, there is no doubt that Bottle It In is a beast of an album. Its 13 songs range in length, from a minute and a half to nearly 11 minutes, and while it is certainly a record that is meant to dwell on, many of its more extensive tracks make no progress throughout their course, instead meandering in circles. “Bassackwards”, for example, fits its music video’s beachy image while moseying lazily along its path, but Vile does not care about time constraints or mind-numbing repetition. Instead, he takes the time to revel in the shimmering background synth and sunny guitar melody, just as he does throughout Bottle It In.

Vile is currently in the middle of a European tour to support the release of Bottle It In and will return to the United States to play in mid-November. In the meantime, check out the list of tour dates below and be sure to grab your tickets here.

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