Philadelphian songwriter Kurt Vile has crafted such a definitive identity for himself that it’s easy to forget he used to be a part of The War On Drugs. Over the course of his past six studio albums (the last four of which came courtesy of Matador Records), Vile continued to grow out his hair, as well as his slacker-rock style.
On b’lieve i’m goin down…, Vile set out to return to his earlier, bedroom (or at least living room couch-ridden) sad songs. He’s turned down the reverb a little from Wakin on a Pretty Daze and emerged through the haze of Smoke Ring For My Halo. And Vile, who actually had a banjo before a guitar, goes back to that first instrument and other acoustic tools for much of the LP.
In fact, much of b’lieve remains mellower and more cognizant than Vile’s previous works, blending organic and inorganic sounds. “I’m an Outlaw” starts off with a drum machine before morphing into the best use of clean banjo work on the album. And up next on b’lieve, “That’s Life, tho (almost hate to say)” is mostly acoustic until moody synths create a thunderstorm in the breakdown. Elsewhere, Vile also includes subtle odes to other influences, like the lyrical nod to Sam Cooke’s “Wonderful World” in the Wurlitzer-laden “Dust Bunnies” and his Bob Dylan-esque intonation on “Wild Imagination.” Even with his musical evolution historical homages, Vile still puns on teenage mantras like, “young, dumb, and full of / come on over to my house” in songs like “Life Like This.” And that is what makes him the lord of the lo-fi loafers.