Release Date: Nov 8, 2011
Record label: Matador
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock
The songs on So Outta Reach were technically written during the same sessions that brought us Smoke Ring for My Halo, Kurt Vile's still-resonant 2011 breakthrough, but the boundaries separating Vile's recordings, at this point, are growing irrelevant: His discography is starting to blur into one long, drawn-out sigh. Listening to hours of Kurt Vile, you get the impression that he once discovered the Neil Young lyric, "Though my problems are meaningless/ That don't make them go away" from "On the Beach", decided to lie down in it a while, and just never left. Like other cultishly obsessive songwriters, however, Vile manages to repeat himself without strictly repeating himself.
At this point, Philadelphia slacker-folk-rock antihero Kurt Vile has developed an easily recognizable sound. A cross-pollination of genes from Stephen Malkmus, J. Mascis, Neil Young, John Fahey, and dozens of other legendarily disillusioned souls, Vile’s signature, dreamed-out take on American folk-rock is virtually unmistakable: gleaming, intersecting guitars; despondent, grumbly, twangy vocals; Fahey-style finger picking; warmly melodic polyrhythms, etc.
Joining the best-aged staples of heartland rock with smoky production, Philly singer-songwriter Kurt Vile’s most recent full-length, Smoke Ring for My Halo, justly garnered much critical acclaim not long after its March release. Thankfully, his latest showing, the 30-minute So Outta Reach EP, is chockfull of everything that made that album so special: nimble guitar picking, characteristically passive lyrics (“Life‘s a while“), warmly mumbled vocals, and enveloping atmospherics. Highlight “The Creature“ is unmistakably Vile, which is to say it‘s so idiosyncratic that it‘s hard to imagine anyone else—not even the War on Drugs‘ Adam Granduciel, Vile‘s former bandmate and frequent reference point—writing or recording it.
With the success of Kurt Vile's album earlier this year, Smoke Ring for My Halo, his new EP sure seems like a victory lap. It probably doesn't help that the CD version is packaged with a new, special edition of Smoke Ring coming just eight months after its initial release. But upon hearing So Outta Reach, it becomes clear this set is something more than that.
“When your ax is acting up/ Throw some delay on it, turn it up,” Vile sings on this six-song EP’s almost-title track, “(so outta reach).” Not bad advice, really. Especially for someone like Vile, whose music has a muzzy, lived-in feel whether he’s layering vintage synthesizers in his bedroom or recording acoustic guitars in the studio with John Agnello, as he did on his most recent full-length for Matador, Smoke Ring for My Halo. So Outta Reach came mostly from the same sessions, so these tunes have a similar vibe, with just as much of an acoustic leaning as the album, perhaps even more so.
We all have that friend, who probably doesn’t wash as often as is necessary, and somehow makes the trip round the house party, lapping up the shallow contents of all those discarded cans and bottles without a hint of embarrassment. Some people denounce this manoeuvre because it seems desperate or needy or perhaps uncool. My main gripe with it, though, is, well: is there any point? I myself have always been sceptical as to how much of the good stuff is actually left in those not-so-alluring cans of cheap cider, tending to lean towards the idea that there’s probably just a good inch of backwash at the bottom that’s been brewing all evening - just waiting to pass on all kinds of malicious bacteria.
Stray tracks from slacker-savant singer-songwriter. Stevie Chick 2011 As anyone who’s been following the career of this Philadelphian singer/songwriter can attest, Kurt Vile is a prolific sort. Already he’s released four albums, three EPs and a pair of singles since surfacing as a solo artist in 2008 (not to mention two EPs and an LP while a member of The War on Drugs).