(watch my moves)
(watch my moves), Kurt Vile’s ninth album, and first for Verve Records, feels like a culmination of his entire career up to this point. It is simultaneously a return to his earliest days of bedroom recordings, albeit of a much higher fidelity, and a maturation into a new realm of songwriting and creative process.
There is an earthy, organic quality to the sound in these songs of an artist who has put down some roots in a place after years of travelling and searching. On the first listen to “Mount Airy Hill (Way Gone),” the final single prior to the album’s April 15 release date, it was slightly reminiscent of another great American songwriter, Townes Van Zandt. That is not to say that this sounds like a Van Zandt track, but there is a shared quality, one that bears the years put into the craft.
All of the Vile-isms – the swirling psych-pop synth, fuzzy distorted guitars, reverb heavy vocals – that have become synonymous with his music since his 2008 solo debut, Constant Hitmaker, are here, but there is a clearly audible new warmth weaving through it all. When finding out that the majority of the album was recorded in Vile’s newly constructed home studio, OKV Central, on a tube console formerly owned by iconic jangle-pop maestro Mitch Easter, it is easy to understand where the added warmth comes from. Further echoing this idea, Vile recently explained, “My favourite pastime these days is sitting drinking coffee in the morning post-breakfast by the window, reading and listening to Sun Ra, sun shining through the forest trees”. This not only explains where he was in his head while making (watch my moves), but is also a great tip on how to listen to it the first time – as the early spring sun streams through my living room window, I am on my second cup of coffee and my second listen to the album.
Throughout the album, Vile’s two major strengths come into very clear focus. Besides placing himself at the top of the class as far as songwriters over the past decade and a half, Vile has also proven to be one the great music collaborators over that time. This trend continues with a number of great guests on (watch my moves), like avant-pop Welsh singer, Cate Le Bon, adding vocals and piano on the excellently subdued electro-folk song “Jesus on a Wire”, Sun Ra Arkestra’s James Stewart’s applying his tenor sax to the seven minute workout “Like Exploding Stones”, blending in with the Moog synthesizers and distorted guitars to give a trippy cosmic tinge to the sound, or Chastity Belt joining on “Chazzy Don’t Mind,” Vile’s ode to the Walla Walla, Washington quartet. All of the guests feel perfectly placed with each adding depth and contours to the overall mood of the album.
There is a playfulness that also runs through the album, like the simple lullaby-esque opener “Goin’ on a Plane Today” that speaks to the surreal nature of his life as a touring musician, the use of backward tape loops on “Palace of OKV in Reverse” and the short atmospheric instrumental “(shiny things)”. While songwriting is a serious business, it does not need to be at the expense of having fun, which might have as much to do with becoming a father of two young daughters as it does with maturing as an artist. One look at the excellent cover image or a listen to the lyrics of “Hey Like a Child” is all the proof one needs to find a man at peaceful bliss with his home life.
Another of Vile’s recurring features across all his albums is the fact that he is as much a fan of music as he is a person who creates it. While he has always been a musician who has absolutely cut his own path, he is never shy about his influences, name dropping Neil Young in “Goin’ on a Plane Today” for example. Even more directly, Vile pays homage to one of his most influential musical touchstones, Bruce Springsteen, with a cover of “Wages of Sin”, a deep cut
Born In The USA studio outtake from the Tracks box set. Like his cover of Sprinsteen’s “Downbound Train” on 2011’s So Outta Reach EP, Vile shows just how much Springsteen’s music has meant to his own, while still giving the song just enough KV to make it his own. It could be argued that (watch my moves) is a career postmark, one that marks the end of the first chapter and the start of the next one. There really is no weak spot on the album, and though it might take awhile to attach special memories to these songs like fans have with his older albums, after a while this one just might prove to be the pick of the bunch. If you are not sure, pour yourself a cup of coffee and go sit in a sunbeam, and let these 15 songs wash over you.
Pre-order (watch my moves) by Kurt Vile HERE