Listen to This: Kurt Vile

Somehow I missed the memo at the end of September when Kurt Vile released “b’lieve i’m goin down…,” the sixth studio album of his solo career. I finally picked it up last week, and it’s the only thing I’ve been able to listen to since. There’s a very real possibility that I’ll soon make myself sick of it—a risk I’m more than willing to take for these few days of musical bliss.

I recognized Vile’s name a few years ago as one of the founding members of The War On Drugs, a band I’m sure will pop up again in a column of mine (because they’re amazing). Vile left the group after their first album and made his debut as a solo artist in 2008.

If your parents are anything like mine and raised you on folk rock—Bruce Springsteen, Neil Young, and so on—Vile’s sound should be a welcome and familiar one. But that isn’t to say his style is unoriginal. Despite a Pennsylvanian upbringing, he carries hints of a southern twang in his voice. His lyrics are often funny, and the songs on this latest album have a conversational quality; even so, there is nothing simple about his music. On “b’lieve i’m goin down…,” Vile seems to be gearing toward a more refined sound, replacing noisy reverb with banjo-plucking and occasionally putting a piano at the forefront.

Many of my music recommendations, both in person and in this column, come with a cautionary note—à la, “you may not like this if…” But it is difficult for me to imagine anyone not being able to enjoy this record on the first listen. The melodies are interesting and catchy, and the lyrics are the rare type that could probably apply to anyone’s life. I’ll go so far as to say that it’s an example of objectively great songwriting. And you should listen to it.

Here’s the music video for “Life Like This,” one of my favorites on the new album.

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