12 Songs, 51 Minutes

EDITORS’ NOTES

After a handful of recordings of varied strength and style (Fahey-finger picking, lo-fi wooziness, mainstream flirtations), Philly’s Kurt Vile (his real name) returns with a set of tunes almost as diverse. Childish Prodigy is as hard to nail down as Vile himself (he’s also a member of War On Drugs); gritty, grinding tracks like the Cramps-ish “Hunchback” and “Freak Train” are tempered with his own brand of hazy, forlorn lo-fi pop (à la Atlas Sound). There’s vulnerability beneath the tarp of reverb threatening to smother the life out of these songs, and that vulnerability is mostly in Vile’s voice, which can run the gamut from a genteel, lost soul to a gravel-throated threat. Tracks like “Overnight Religion” and “Amplifier” are full of ambience and longing, and when Vile chants, “I don’t care, I don’t care, I don’t care ....” on “He’s Alright,” you suspect he actually does. Guitars are strummed and plucked with economy, then woven into pleasing layers on the spare “Heart Attack” and “Blackberry Song,” but they howl with convincing splendor on “Monkey.” Childish Prodigy makes for a lively, if not slightly perplexing listening experience.

EDITORS’ NOTES

After a handful of recordings of varied strength and style (Fahey-finger picking, lo-fi wooziness, mainstream flirtations), Philly’s Kurt Vile (his real name) returns with a set of tunes almost as diverse. Childish Prodigy is as hard to nail down as Vile himself (he’s also a member of War On Drugs); gritty, grinding tracks like the Cramps-ish “Hunchback” and “Freak Train” are tempered with his own brand of hazy, forlorn lo-fi pop (à la Atlas Sound). There’s vulnerability beneath the tarp of reverb threatening to smother the life out of these songs, and that vulnerability is mostly in Vile’s voice, which can run the gamut from a genteel, lost soul to a gravel-throated threat. Tracks like “Overnight Religion” and “Amplifier” are full of ambience and longing, and when Vile chants, “I don’t care, I don’t care, I don’t care ....” on “He’s Alright,” you suspect he actually does. Guitars are strummed and plucked with economy, then woven into pleasing layers on the spare “Heart Attack” and “Blackberry Song,” but they howl with convincing splendor on “Monkey.” Childish Prodigy makes for a lively, if not slightly perplexing listening experience.

TITLE TIME

About Kurt Vile

Singer-songwriter Kurt Vile presents himself as the kind of guy who could take it or leave it. It’s not that he doesn’t try (his albums constitute some of the most exquisitely composed indie rock of the 2010s), but that his work sounds so off-the-cuff, so casual that you wonder if it all just occurred to him—what the Brazilian author Clarice Lispector described (in another context) as “simplicity with enormous effort.” Born in 1980 and raised with nine siblings in the Philadelphia suburb of Landsdowne, Vile (his real name) briefly drove a forklift before cofounding The War on Drugs with friend Adam Granduciel, leaving the band in 2008 to work on his own music. Influenced by the slanted Americana of labels like Drag City, he released a couple of home-recorded albums before making the jump to indie institution Matador in 2009, honing a quietly majestic sound that mixed classic-rock extroversion with Zen-like inner monologue, collapsing the distance between the plain (“To be frank, I’m fried”) and the profound. It’s a quality that—like the work of collaborator Courtney Barnett, with whom Vile made 2017’s joint album Lotta Sea Lice—can make Vile’s writing feel almost uncanny, rendering the everyday as something you haven’t quite seen before. In other words, he’s an artist who can write a song about looking in the mirror (2015’s “Pretty Pimpin”) and make the person in it seem a million miles away.

HOMETOWN
Lansdowne, PA
BORN
January 3, 1980

Songs

Albums

Videos

Listeners Also Played