Back to Moon Beach by Kurt Vile album review by Igor Bannikov for Northern Transmissions. The singer/songwriter's EP is now out via Verve


Back to Moon Beach

Kurt Vile

Kurt Vile shows a PhD approach in recycling on his new LP-Length EP. Did you think that recycling is a practice connected only with climate change, global warming, and waste materials? Kurt Vile demonstrates in his new almost one-hour-long cyclopic EP “Back to Moon Beach” that music is also relevant here and, with such an approach, can be very helpful from both a scientific and emotional point of view.

Vile loves to rework and recycle his own vast catalog and his favorite musicians’ things. He often speaks about it in interviews and shows by his actions, endlessly reassembling different pieces of his already-released tracks, taking old song developments out of the bag, and constantly referring to works of his beloved ancestors, from Bob Dylan and the Boss to Neil Young and Jeff Tweedy. All that reaches its peak here, on the so-called new EP, which should definitely be called an album according to its length, or at least a mixtape due to its lack of coherence and conception. “Ok, it’s longer than an EP… now I call it a KV comp” — as if Vile himself is responding to us.

Having collected this record from different old pre-pandemic sessions, which is good for recycling, as you remember, he has made here as many nods to the roots as possible, with a lot of familiar tunes from his own past. For example, the intro of “Touched Somethin (Caught a Virus), with its recognizable acoustic strums, reminds of almost every strummed melody out of Vile’s playbook. “Cool Water” is the new version of the eponymous track from “Watch My Moves”, and it really sounds like a solid upgrade. Elsewhere, the drum machine heart beating of “Like a Wounded Bird Trying to Fly” resembles a more rhythmic version of “Wild Imagination.”

“Passenger Side” is a Wilco cover and a bow to the origins of indie music in one cup. The title track “Back to Moon Beach” refers to Mac DeMarco’s not less repetitive “Here Comes the Cowboy.” “Must Be Santa” gives us a slower and cuter reimagination of Bob Dylan’s holiday tune (which is also a cover itself) with backing vocals from Vile’s daughters. The deluxe vinyl version of this, er, KV comp even includes his cover of Charli XCX’s “Constant Repeat,” which can be considered his best offering in years. All of that is packed with firm repetitive woo-ohs and other ad-libs (“Another Good Year for the Roses»), which we have heard more than once in his music.

However, despite all those recycled melodies, we have some fresh approaches here, like plenty of piano parts in “Blues Come for Some,” which are not very typical for Vile. Another piano-driven waltz, the opening cut “Another Good Year for the Roses,” with the help of Cate Le Bon, becomes one of the most playful, poppiest, and multilayered offerings in his songbook. Of course, the best innovation of the whole venture is more noticeable participation of his daughters Awilda and Delphine on backing vocals, which might give a bit more cohesion to the record if Charli XCX’s cover was included in the default bundle.

The main complexity of Vile’s albums, which, during the last decade, have matched the hour-long length of Drake’s records, is that they always live their own lives without adjusting to the mainstream. Which, in an hour-long run, could turn them into a hazy mishmash for the listener who came in from the cold. I can’t name “Back to Moon Beach” among Vile’s definitive works, but this time, Vile has managed to make this LP-Length EP as diverse as possible by digging and recycling a lot of different stuff. It would be too on the nose to state that he’s done it not only for himself but, at times, musicians’ and listeners’ desires match.

I’m not sure if music recycling could seriously help with environmental challenges (although, to create a cover you spend fewer resources), but it definitely helps the music industry and listeners by reactivating, or even reanimating, long-forgotten songs and artists and by giving to people some complex and soul-saving feelings. As Vile says, “the world is heavy” and if at least one song “takes your mind off things for 5 minutes, that’s all I can hope for.”

Order Back To Moon Beach by Kurt Vile HERE


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