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Kurt Vile B'Lieve I'm Goin' Down Matador Records

It’d be easy to peg Kurt Vile as a slacker but let’s face it, he’s far from lazy. Alongside six EPs, B’lieve I’m Goin’ Down is his fifth album in seven years and it’s a marked progression in songwriting that leaves him sitting pretty on top of a big pile of would-be rivals. Vile’s brand of poppy Americana has come a long way from his more subdued, hazy lo-fi roots. He’s now capable of writing certified earworms with ‘proper choruses’ and everything.

Opening track Pretty Pimpin’ is the perfect example of this new, more focused Kurt Vile. It’s upbeat and catchy, echoing songs like KV Crimes and Never Run Away from 2013’s Wakin’ On A Pretty Daze. Sure, on first listen the lyrics come off as pretty corny and cartoonish (“All I want is to just have some fun, and live my life like a son of a gun”) but that’s just par for the course with KV. Elsewhere on the album Life Like This brings an endlessly looping, buzzing piano to the equation and Lost My Head There slinks into something that almost sounds like dusty, Southern disco.

On the whole, B’Lieve I’m Goin’ Down is a more upbeat and polished album than any Vile has released before. It’s also far less compelling. What it makes up for in pace it lacks in lushness and warmth. Even the slower songs like That’s Life Tho (Almost Hate To Say It) just don’t feel complete. B’lieve I’m Goin’ Down ain’t bad, but whatever’s next for Kurt, we just hope he takes a little more time getting there.