Much has been made of Kurt Vile's venture into dusty synth Americana on his latest full-length (watch my moves). But the truth is that the Philly rocker has always existed too far on the periphery of hipsterism to be affected by categorization.
2011's Smoke Ring for My Halo was too baggy to win over the psychedelics, and 2015's b'lieve i'm goin down... was too self-aware for the folkies.
Kurt Vile has such a laconic, "aw shucks," Mr. Cool thing going on with his presentation and apparently breezy attitude it is easy to miss the passions underpinning his seemingly effortless, but deceptively captivating music. His loose, dissembled and re-assembled songs can resemble clumsy, misshapen objects falling from the sky. His flat tone and deadpan vocals take his songs in their own unique direction every time and Will Oldham/Bonnie Prince Billy comes to mind, in skewed poetic tenor, if not exactly musically.
A too short review for a too long album
Watch My Moves is a Kurt Vile album. As such, it has some characteristic traits, for good and for ill: there's the endearingly laconic drawl of the vocals and the pristine tone of the guitar, but also an (at times) almost unbearably slow pace to the songs and a general lack of concern for album structure. This record does nothing to convince Kurt Vile skeptics to jump on the bandwagon, but for the already-converted it will also do nothing to drive them away.
This has held true for the seven solo records to the Philadelphian's credit in the last fourteen years, Vile serving up a slacker shaded canvas painted with winding guitar solos and idiosyncratic improvisation. Collaborations with Courtney Barnett, Kim Gordon and the late John Prine have followed since the breakthrough lo-fi grit of fourth album Smoke Ring For My Halo, Vile's roving sonic footprint uninhibited as ever. With Pavement and R.E.M.
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.
A slacker-rock Springsteen from Philadelphia, Kurt Vile has always seemed in his element in a state of baked repose, mind flickering freely through the record-store racks of his influences and otherwise. For his eighth album, Vile found himself well-positioned to double down on his default mode, and to take the time to rarefy matters. Half recorded in his new home studio OKV Central during lockdown, and half-recorded in LA with Elliott Smith producer Rob Schnapf, the result is an immersive, inviting set of beatifically zonked songs from the couch, with room left open for collaborators, covers and psychedelic colours in that tight-but-loose manner Vile has made his own.