Album Review: Kurt Vile – (watch my moves)

In true Kurt Vile fashion, the first thing that hits you about (watch my moves) is the purposeful naivety of his songwriting. The opener sounds like it could have been written by keyboard cat and sang by a toddler, but with that as a starting point for a 13-song album, it makes you wonder where he will take things.

Where he took it can only be described as classic Vile. Within every song is an iconic lyric – he manages to grab your attention in a single sentence and it is usually the first line of a song. For example, this absolute gold is from track 7, ‘Jesus on a Wire’: ‘Jesus on the phone talkin’ bout a nervous breakdown…I wanna reach out to old Jesus, tell him not to feel alone (I’m here to save ya)’.

Although Vile seems to come across incredibly laissez-faire, both in his vocal style and lyrical content, in fact that could not be farther from the truth. In this album we have a fine example of his own signature sound that has over the years been fine-tuned, a sound so unmistakable it couldn’t have happened by accident. He even said himself of his ninth album (the first released on Verve Records), ‘It’s about song writing. It’s about lyrics. It’s about being the master of all domains in the music’.

Vile has managed to pull out all the stops and showcase all of his talents. Taking creative control over every aspect of the album by recording it in his home studio OKV Central. Despite the apparent nonchalant attitude, his ear for sonic detail in production tells a different tale. The album boasts a punchy, dry, organic sounding drum kit, with layers of spacey synth sounds to create texture in the mix. His trademark guitar is heavy on the whammy bar and the bass sound is clear, with lots of high mid rasp to create a vintage sound. In contrast to the vocal sound on older Vile works such as Childish Prodigy, where the vocals are drowned in reverb and delay, (watch my moves) features a very up-front, dry vocal performance which sounds exposed and almost conversational.

Having reviewed other albums created during the pandemic and noted their melancholic implications, it seems to me that in this case that Vile must have benefited from the forced break lockdown provided. His themes are altogether more uplifting and his undertones pleasant in (watch my moves). As opposed to, for example, Collections from the Whiteout by Ben Howard, which was a darker, more experimental album exploring uncomfortable concepts which seemed to reflect his world-view at the time.

You can hear the fun in Vile’s experimental synth sounds and scattered jazz references, which I might add is a stark contrast to his 2018 album Bottle It In, which was was written during a string of tours which meant there would have been little or no time to take a break from it all, and the tour burnout is definitely evident in his songs.

After listening to (watch my moves) in its entirety, you come away with a feeling of ease, as though you’ve been on a trip on a sunny day, content in the knowledge that you have received exactly what was expected from Kurt Vile – a chilled out, ‘fried’ vibe.

Shannon Pearl