Kurt Vile: Artist You Should Know

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From KCRW DJ Mario Cotto:

I love Philadelphia. Some things change, some things stay exactly the same.

My friends and family are there and they all know my favorite haunts. For my birthday, everyone knows I love to grab a burger at the Standard Tap in Northern Liberties. A couple of years back, my boy David told me about this kid named Kurt Vile who was playing his guitar and just “workin’ it out” at the tiny backroom of the Standard Tap on some odd weeknights.

About 2 years ago…Kurt Vile released a couple of spectacular records on Woodsist and Mexican Summer respectively. And on the chugging strength of those releases, he was signed to Matador and released a gorgeous record called “Childish Prodigy.” All the albums had lovely album covers with “weathered photos” that featured Vile in very Philadelphia settings, in train-yards, overgrown backlots, the Art Museum steps…and although it wasn’t the dance-punk sound I associated with the Philly I left a decade ago, it felt like just right.

Smoke ring for my haloKurt Vile (and the Violators) and the band he used to be in, The War on Drugs, harken back to an era of working class radio rock sounds like Springsteen or Tom Petty. He plays jangly jams you can sing along to and somber more introspective numbers that can break your heart into a million pieces.

To great effect, his latest release Matador release “Smoke Ring for My Halo,” doesn’t change the formula.

The cover has Vile sitting on a couch in what could very well be a West Philly Rowhouse, and he smartly hasn’t altered his sound but has seemingly focused on writing lyrics that leave a real mark.

Stream “Baby’s Arms”

Considering the rough state of affairs, economically, politically, etc., etc. Vile’s music feels really timely and (at the risk of being uber-patriotic) resiliently American. Album opener, “Baby’s Arms” is simultaneously heartbreaking and uplifting in that it romantically declares that “except for her…there is nothing to latch on to.” As heavy as it can get, this is music to believe in.

— Mario Cotto