A constant reassuring presence in a world of flux, nothing much seems to have changed in Vile’s beatific world
Kurt Vile has cultivated a reputation for consistency and carefree excellence over the course of a long winding career that is now entering its 19th year. Always here, always creating dreamy psychy folky pop, Vile has become the embodiment of the Constant Hitmaker that the title of his first solo album in 2008 suggested. (watch my moves) is his ninth solo album and arrives after a noticeably long gap of four years. Yet despite the break nothing much seems to have changed in Vile’s beatific world.
The record comes cloaked in a wash of gorgeous haze that gives the 15 songs endearing charm. The music is uniformly simple but beautifully effective. It sounds like what it is, one man telling you stories and weaving beguiling tales of distinct and not too distant lands through a carefully intricate and delicate soft rock tapestry. The pace rarely gets above sedate, but that’s ok, as evidenced by the opening collection of songs like the gently rousing piano and horn backed opener Goin On A Plane Today, the more traditional gauzy guitar meander of Flyin (like a fast train), and the escapist fantasy of Mount Airy Hill (Way Gone).
These songs embody the records vibe of a man who has experienced much, lived out a lot of fantasies and is now looking to settle down; indeed, the record is perhaps Vile’s first in which he is predominantly settled in one place, unable to tour during the pandemic and ensconced in his own newly built home studio in his beloved Philadelphia. When someone this committed to his song craft has all the time in the world to create and while away the time writing songs then you’re going to get something perfectly defined and realised, and the blissed out vibes of (watch my moves) are a product of that time.
While the one paced aspect of the album is arguably its central quality, despite how frequently lovely the music is, when the running time is 75 minutes and 15 songs even the wash of loveliness can get a bit much. You have to wait until track eight, with Fo Sho, to get a welcome bit of fuzzy energy. One welcome diversion on the album is an eerie, dark hued cover of a song called Wages Of Sin which is a Bruce Springsteen outtake recorded in the intriguing period in the Boss’s career post Nebraska and pre the commercial explosion of Born In The USA. Its air of mystery and dread offers a welcome kind of different dynamic.
There’s no doubt Vile has worked very hard to get to the position where he essentially has the freedom to do whatever he wants. Other similar artists making slightly fried and blissful psych pop like his former bandmates The War On Drugs and Kevin Parker’s Tame Impala have sought to beef up their sounds and expand into all sorts of different poppy and perhaps more experimental directions. For Vile though, he’s content to travel along on his own merry way, and if you’re enamoured with his sound then this is another surefire hit. For everyone else, well it’s just Vile doing his thing. A constant reassuring presence in a world of flux.