Kurt Vile’s eclectic 15-song album (watch my moves) is an entirely expected project. The indie-folk artist released the album on April 15, and over the course of a woozy hour and thirteen minutes, he releases the slow tendrils of his personal thoughts. The album is a meditation by Vile — repetitive, like a thought you turn over again and again, yet ultimately intimate and soothing.
The opening thirty seconds of the first song made me terrified that the discordant piano chords and simple melody would characterize the whole album — I was worried that Vile would leave behind the rolling guitar strums and warm sounds of his usual music. However, the goofy sounds of “Goin on a Plane Today” put me in the right headspace for the rest of the album.
Vile thrives in discomfort — his listeners are meant to surrender their expectations before enjoying his music. The first song shook me up enough to make the familiar elements that characterize Vile’s music even more comforting. The lulling repetition of his guitar calls back to the sound of his older albums, with the clumsy and loose motion of a backroad drive, and the album’s bright sound feels like an afternoon slacklining on the Arts Quad: you might feel a little uncomfortable being barefoot in public, but the cool air, like Vile’s chill voice, feels good.
The album’s sound and lyrics deliciously wander. Vile does what he does best with the twinkling guitar in “Mount Airy Hill (Way Gone),” the dreamy fifth track that features ambiguous lyrics in his usual raspy voice that don’t take themselves too seriously: “He do the snake in the grass / He do the wiggle it around now, way down low / I been around but now I’m gone.”
There is also a strangeness to Vile’s album: its discomfort and openness feel like a wavy childhood memory. On the album cover, Vile wears an animal mask while sitting on a bridge in the woods between two spooky-looking children. Why is he wearing a mask? Who are the children? The “i” in the name “Vile” on the cover is dotted with a sketched-out planet, adding a splash of personality to the already strange image.
Yet, despite the blank expressions on the children’s faces, the cover image is not menacing, but only curious. Vile is strange, but he is a friend to you and your inner child. “Chazzy Don’t Mind” opens with a fresh guitar riff that makes me feel like I’m six years old, experiencing the slow dribble of an ice pop or waiting for something to happen that’s outside my control. Vile writes even more levity into “Hey Like a Child,” a soft love song that reminisces on the ease of early love and fuzzy feelings between children: “Yo, lemonade, my girl, what it is? / Gleamin’ in the sun / You’re the one, you’re the one, you’re the one / Hey like a child you walked into my light.”
Although the good feelings are there, not every song on the album will make it onto my spring playlist. By the middle of the album, the songs start to blend together, and Vile’s repetition grows tiresome in “Jesus on a Wire” without many distinctive features to the song. This is the norm for Vile, and one of his usual shortcomings: many of his songs start off with a fun sound, but I tend to skip them a few minutes through, their bleary sounds often best enjoyed in the background.
Vile certainly did not sacrifice any part of himself in the making of (watch my moves). His sound and energy revive themselves in “Fo Sho” and “Say the Word,” two fast-paced songs with crunchier guitar sounds that did, in fact, make it onto my spring playlist. His guitar remains an extension of his body, with his loose riffs and sometimes disagreeable compositions — but to his credit, Vile’s sound is not bottled. He maintains a strangeness, honesty and introspection through the end of the album.
(watch my moves) thrives in its intimacy, and even the parentheses in the album title itself make the album feel personal and private. Vile’s new project might not be suited for my walk to class, but rather for when I’m at the bottom of a jumbo carton of goldfish in my dorm room, contemplating the rise and fall of my relationships, or something lighter, like light wash denim. The album captures a private moment, a moment in which you might let yourself breathe without anyone watching.
Kiki Plowe is a freshman in the College of Arts and Sciences. She can be reached at [email protected].