It feels like Kurt Vile has hazily strolled his way into becoming one of America’s great modern songwriters. Across his eight previous albums, the Philly legend has beamed himself out to the world like a compelling and strange frequency, swerving trends and growing his dazed sound with raw beauty. By constantly managing to pull us into his steady and reclined speed of life, the long-haired one-off has firmly earned his status as a cult outsider.
It’s perhaps no wonder that Vile had been rubbing shoulders with his own heroes in the run-up to his ninth record ‘(watch my moves)’. The heartwarming 2020 EP ‘Speed, Sound, Lonely KV’ included a duet with the late country icon John Prine, and before the pandemic, he giddily opened shows for his oft-cited ultimate hero Neil Young, something Vile waxes lyrical about on piano-led album opener ‘Goin On A Plane Today’: “Gonna open up for Neil Young / Man, life can sure be fun / Imagine if I knew this when I was a young!”
This record shows that Vile isn’t about to abandon the formula that’s served him so well since he left The War On Drugs over a decade ago. It packs that wholesome, easy charm he’s always held, almost as if the songs fell out of his brain while he was strumming away on his back porch. The mission statement is made clear in the therapeutic ‘Palace Of OKV In Reverse’ as cosmic synths merge with plucky bass: “Dreamin’ up a storm in my soul / There’s a great flood of blood pumpin’ through to my heart / That goes out to the world.”
On the introspective and psych-indebted single ‘Like Exploding Stones’, Vile outlines the meditative quality in the music as squelching effects pedals bubble in the background of the seven-minute jam: “And guitars feeding back now / Feedback massaging my cranium.” It’s classic Kurt Vile, but it’s also clear he’s at his most expansive and all absorbing this time. The album flows from golden acoustic anthems of love like ‘Hey Like A Child’, to more alien, progressive jams like ‘Fo Sho’ which employ fuzzy feedback a la Young‘s ‘Rockin’ In The Free World’.
Vile has always been the epitome of someone comfortable in their own skin, but he displays that more than ever on this spacey and sprawling adventure. We’re transported to leafy suburban American backstreets with one meandering vocal melody, and even placed in a great American forest on his reflective ode to his Philadelphia, ‘Mount Airy Hill (Way Gone)’. Nobody can transport you in quite the same way this outsider can, and the world’s a much better place for his unwavering presence.
Release date: April 15
Record label: Verve/Virgin Music