#17. Kurt Vile: b'lieve i'm goin down...

Terrence Malick shot much of Days of Heaven during the fleeting hour of twilight between pure sunlight and total sunset, known as “the magic hour.” This gave the film a heavenly, golden hue, and the resulting picture feels trapped motionlessly in a time that is neither day nor night. Kurt Vile’s b’lieve i’m goin down… exists in this same perpetual half-light, but abandons the quietude often associated with the magic hour.

Vile goes to some length to paint himself as an outlaw on the album—in fact, it almost sounds like he’s trying too hard to get this point across (see: “I’m an Outlaw”). And at first one might believe him. The twang of his guitar and banjo fit neatly into a long lineage of Americana rock acts. His voice calls to mind the lazy drawl of Tom Petty, although his baritone mumble is a bit more reminiscent of Lou Reed.

But no matter how hard Vile tries to paint himself in the same vein as these rebel rockers, he can’t seem to keep up his own charade. When he sings, “that’s right, I wanna live a life like this,” it sounds like he can’t even keep himself convinced. It’s not long before the outlaw character crumbles away, as Vile admits over the meditative fingerpicking of “That’s Life, tho” that he needs to take pills to take the edge off before going out. As the man behind the mask becomes clearer, he quips, “ain’t it oh-exciting, the way one can fake their way through life?” wondering whether he can reconcile his persona with the man he really is.

The clash of identities comes into full focus over the stomping yet sedated groove of “Pretty Pimpin,” as Vile’s two identities grow so far apart that he has trouble recognizing himself in his own bathroom mirror. It’s a hackneyed subject for a song that feels fresh mostly due to its crushing sincerity, as we’re left to wonder just how fractured he really is.