Kurt Vile Further Hones His Languid Focus on '(watch my moves)'

BY Daniel SylvesterPublished Apr 14, 2022

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.

Smoke Ring for My Halo (2011) was too baggy to win over the psychedelics, and b'lieve i'm goin down... (2015) was too self-aware for the folkies. But that isn't to say Vile's music is beyond critical appraisal, as 2018's Bottle It In was a stiff and passive imitation of everything he does great. The 15 tracks that make up (watch my moves) hold so much mist and buoyancy that they almost dissolve into a singular haze.

There's only a handful of moments, including the yokel autobiographical opener "Goin on a Plane Today" and the irksome yodel of "Mount Airy Hill (Way Gone)," that generate any strong adverse reaction. Instead, the listener is soothed by docile song structures, recognizable stoner refrains, and sheets of lush production. With half the LP recorded in his newly built home studio, and half created in LA with Rob Schnapf (Beck, Elliott Smith, Guided by Voices), Vile comes off languorously focused as he accumulates waves of cascading instrumentation — including vibrating slide guitar, skulking piano, and layers upon layers of warm synth — to lull each track into near submission.

At a sprawling 75 minutes, (watch my moves) blends these songs together into an ebbing and flowing singular piece, especially apparent in the album's atmospheric second half. The foggy "Cool Water" and Vile's insulated eight-minute cover of the Bruce Springsteen B-side "Wages of Sin" leave vibrating tracers as they slink along. Even though Vile remains his goofy self on guitar jangler "Hey Like a Child" and the bouncing "Say the Word," they nonetheless make tracks like 2015's "Pretty Pimpin" and 2018's "Bassackwards" seem downright elementary.

Despite its scope, ambition, and, ahem, maturity, Vile's latest never comes off as monotonous. Even when he recruits guest musicians that he admires — including Cate Le Bon, Sun Ra Arkestra's James Stewart and Warpaint's Stella Mozgawa — Vile seems to immediately draw them into his slo-mo vortex. With (watch my moves), Kurt Vile possibly creates indie rock's first ambient masterwork, a piece of art that is surprisingly and lovingly languid, even for the king of slack.

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