in Compare/Contrast

Kurt Vile – Bottle It In / Kamasi Washington – Heaven and Earth

I know what you’ve probably been thinking as I’ve been throwing up all these year-end wrap-up posts: “I don’t have time for this”. And that’s perfectly understandable. When it comes to pop culture these days, the hardest thing to come by is time. There’s just so much content out there that it feels basically impossible to devote the necessary amount of time to the music and movies and TV that’s worth approaching, so sometimes you just gotta say “I don’t have the time”. And that’s pretty much what I had to do with these two albums, which seemed perfectly worthwhile, but were just too damn long for me to finish.

That’s right. I’m reviewing two albums that I haven’t even listened to in full. Why am I doing this? Possibly because I’d like to write enough posts on the blog for this not to be our least productive year ever. But also because I wanted to point out that, sure there is lots of great stuff out there, but you don’t have to feel ashamed if you don’t have the time to listen to it. Because, yes, I like the spaced-out jazz of Kamasi Washington and the dirty folk of Kurt Vile. But they’re not like my absolute favorite artists in the world, so it’s ok if I don’t do a deep dive into an album of theirs that they clearly knew would try people’s patience.

At 70 minutes, Kurt Vile’s Bottle It In is just a little more Kurt Vile than I’m inclined to indulge. I’ve always liked the guy, since despite never cracking one of my year-end top ten lists, I’ve listened to every album he’s put out since 2011’s Smoke Ring For My Halo. And I’ve pretty much enjoyed all of them. With their shaggy production and Vile’s unassumingly clever wordplay, they’re very easy albums to put on in the background while you’re doing stuff. But maybe that’s also part of the reason that Vile’s music has never quite grabbed me enough to fall in love with. Also, it’s apparent that Bottle It In does see Vile reaching more into a reflective vein, as he seems to be a bit more comfortable with his stature as an indie rock veteran.

“Comfortable” is not a word I would use to describe Kamasi Washington. Despite the fact that he released a very good EP last year, he was far from satisfied with his recent output, and released a gargantuan two-and-a-half hour album that out-epics 2015’s The Epic. That length in and of itself certainly makes this album a little unapproachable, especially considering the fact that Washington’s one of the very few artists keeping jazz relevant for people who typically don’t listen to jazz. But at the same time, you have to admire that, along with the ways in which Washington vies to reach beyond the classic constraints of what we think of as jazz into something grander. Still, I’ve probably only listened to about half of this album, despite the fact that I’ve had it in my streaming queue since June.

So I really have no business reviewing these albums. As I said, I’m mostly just doing this to up our post count. And I still haven’t finished listening to these albums in their entirety, so I probably don’t even need to finish writing this re