Release Date: Nov 19, 2013
Record label: Matador
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock
There are a lot of artists working the indie folk/rock beat—even some very good ones—who would kill to write as song as aching and beautiful as “Feel My Pain.” It’s the kind of muted, melancholy trip that could launch a career. For Kurt Vile, it’s basically a B-side, appearing on the collection of outtakes and cast-offs from his last recording session (which produced April’s Wakin’ On a Pretty Daze) on the new It’s a Big World Out There (and I am Scared) EP. The material, which didn’t make the cut on Wakin’, serves a dual function.
Kurt Vile has bought a synthesiser, and he wants everyone to know it. The Philadelphian chap’s new EP, It’s a Big World Out There (And I Am Scared) collects various offcuts from this year’s Wakin on a Pretty Daze album and chucks them all together, creating a big pile of Americana that is so hip sounding it could probably unite Uncut and Pitchfork readers, which in music writing terms is like uniting Israel and Palestine, probably. It doesn’t take long for the synth to rear its head.
Following the release of their fifth studio album, ‘Wakin On A Pretty Daze’, Kurt Vile and the Violators are releasing an EP to accompany its expanded double-disc version. Recorded in the same sessions, ‘it’s a big world out there (and i am scared)’ complements and supports the main album – alternative versions of ‘Wakin…’ tracks sit alongside new material.It seems an extravagant exercise, putting out your own album again in the same year it was released, especially when the seven ‘new’ tracks are in part made up of re-imaginings of the original ones. But rather than this being an afterthought, it’s a natural coda.
Having both read and conducted my fair share of interviews with musicians, I can say with at least a little bit of authority that one of the most beguiling points of discussion that seems to routinely crop up when discussing a new record is the number of songs that was written for it. So often, a band might mention having written twenty, thirty, forty tracks for a ten or eleven track LP; it’s normally a pretty vague claim, with many of them presumably never making it further than demo form, but it does make you wonder what happens to so many discarded ideas. I find it genuinely surprising that EPs like this one, designed as a delivery vessel for songs that didn’t fit on the full-length, aren’t a far more frequent occurrence.
As a solo artist, Kurt Vile has released five albums in five years and, counting this new one, as many EPs. Absolutely necessary? Depends on how much of a fan you are, and he did warn you – his debut album was called ‘Constant Hitmaker’. It took him until this year’s ‘Wakin On A Pretty Daze’ to actually have something resembling a hit, and these seven songs are a final toast to its success.
With this year’s Wakin On A Pretty Daze, Kurt Vile’s spacey take on ’70s guitar rock and Americana officially came around full circle. The songs are strange-sounding yet comfortable, basking in the warm familiarity of your old Neil Young and Bruce records, but coated with a cryptic psych rock finish. Everyone seems fascinated with unlocking their inner Springsteen these days, but Vile (along with his friends and former bandmates in The War on Drugs) has had more success than many in transforming those classic styles into something his own.
It's become part of Kurt Vile's small mythology, insofar as he has one: The few post-high school years he lived in Boston, away from his childhood friends in Philly. This brief purgatory—spent discovering John Fahey, driving a forklift to make ends meet, and wondering where all his friends had gone—was a formative, fertile period, the years in which he discovered and honed his inimitable finger-picking style and zeroed in on the wry, cosmic loneliness that would become his defining sound. He came back to Philly from what he once called his "weird little exile" with his first fully formed songs intact.
Culled from last year’s Wakin’ on a Pretty Daze recording sessions, Kurt Vile’s follow-on Big World EP offers an additional seven tracks of his trademark psych-Americana, employing equal parts Neil Young-inspired songwriting and J Mascis-esque vocal drawl. Lyrically, Kurt continues to hone his wry witticisms that sometimes hint at an indiscernible poignancy. Big World also features brighter moments than Daze did, but occasionally at the cost of overwrought arrangements that can’t seem to settle on a direction, and thus spin in place for a bit too long.