Kurt Vile released his 10th solo studio album “Bottle It In” on Oct. 12.
“Bottle It In” retains the familiarity of Vile’s thoughtfully layered guitar picking, introspective stream of consciousness lyrics and penchant for one banjo featured song.
However, when viewing the album as if it were pressed on a vinyl LP, side A is decidedly more upbeat. In contrast, side B is much darker and death anxious. Vile does nothing without a purpose, so this was clearly thoughtfully formulated. What it means is up to each listener.
“Loading Zones” was the first single of the album and is the opening track. A song about how power and ambition corrupt, Vile (as always) sings in the first person. He assumes the role of a corrupted city official as he sings, “Drop some dead weight, clean my hands of what I need to clean my hands of/ And all for free by mayoral decree/All from zone to loading zone of my town, yeah.”
Instrumentally, the song is reminiscent of R.E.M.’s “Losing My Religion,” which isn’t very surprising given Vile would have been a teenager at the time of its popularity. It is by no means a rip off; it just simply invokes the early ’90s staple.
‘One Trick Ponies’
Another pick from the upbeat front half of the album, the song focuses on the theme of repetition. With sunny guitar and warm harmonies ending every line, it is at home with pleasant summer days. Vile sings, “Some are one trick ponies, but we embrace ’em/ ‘Cause I’ve always had a soft spot for repetition.” The lines are reinforced by a simple repetitive guitar riff.
Another endearing facet of this song is Vile’s “cleaning up” of his language as if it were on the fly: “And I’d give my left — (neve rmind) for one big synchronized smile.” Everyone knows what he meant to say, but he didn’t have to complete the saying to convey it. Could it be because he has two young daughters? I tend to favor the idea that it was simply a glimpse of his humor.
As I mentioned, every album Vile has one song that features the bluegrass leanings of the banjo. “Come Again” is this album’s song. Given Vile’s guitar style, it is easy to see the leap to banjo as more of a comfortable sidestep. The bright picking of the banjo is counteracted by Vile’s melancholic vocals. A song talking about the change of seasons on the surface, digging deeper, it tackles the longing to escape consequence, to relive a time over and over until you “get it right.”
‘Cold Was the Wind’
A creepy tune with a Doors dark psychedelic twist, “Cold Was the Wind” definitely fits in with the month of October. The song is the most upfront with its theme of death anxiety: “On the plane I’m drinkin red wine, ’cause like everybody else I’m afraid to die/ Did I mention that I’m afraid of dying, think I heard my daughter crying.”
It speaks to an uncertainty of the beyond and a fear of being remembered. Vile makes it apparent that he has a lot more to lose now than before: “You better Goddamn miss me when I’m gone/ ‘Cause God’s gonna damn me up and down now/ Wherever it is, they’re gonna give me the business/ Whoever it is, gonna miss my girls.” “My girls” refers to his wife and two daughters.
“Cold Was the Wind” is a song many can relate to as we contemplate the beyond and its uncertainty.