Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Review: Kurt Vile, Square Shells EP

Kurt Vile
Square Shells EP
9.2 chilled PBRs out of 10 chilled PBRs

I’m not going to lie about it – when I listened to the first song off of Kurt Vile’s latest EP, I wasn’t really sold. “Ocean City” is the kind of low-key song that brings to mind a chilled out Beach Boys sound, the kind of stuff that everyone seems to be making these days. Not bad by any means, but I was worried that the entire EP would follow in that pattern.
And then I got to the end of the song, and I realized that I was completely, stupidly wrong. Kurt Vile is nothing if not innovative. That particular song, with all its guitar strumming and simple melodies, fades out with the touch of electric sound that weaves its way throughout the rest of the record. Square Shells is a landscape of sound, eclectic but somehow managing to pull it off without appearing to try too hard. Some tracks incorporate samples, some rely on electric guitar, some have vocals, one might even have what sounds like an electric accordion. I could go on and on, and honestly I could not list everything on this record.
Such a wide variety of influences makes it pretty clear that composition is incredibly important to Kurt Vile, and it shows most in tracks like “The Finder,” which has no vocals at all (and it’s the one with the accordion, which makes it even better). It’s this strangely hypnotic melody, quiet in all the right ways, and by the time it’s over you will guaranteed want to listen to it again, and again, and again…until you’re either in some kind of weird trance or you’ve fallen asleep to have blissed out dreams. This is going to sound strange, but I would actually love to see him play this in a church. Maybe on an organ.
The point here being that once I start using seemingly unrelated and random associations for songs on an album, it’s just too good or too unique to put into familiar musical terms (I could throw in the phrase “lo-fi” for good measure, if that helps at all). Square Shells is brimming with everything that is missing from so much of the new music put out these days and rated by Pitchfork. It’s “found art” at its very best and its most genuine. There is absolutely no excuse not to go get this EP immediately and put it on your permanent rotation.
I’m serious. Right now.

- Emily Simpson

Tracks to check out first: “The Finder,” “Invisibility: Nonexistent”

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