I had the opportunity to see Kurt Vile not too terribly long ago when he was playing at a bar I was working at. I was pretty pumped. I served him a beer and was ready for the show. Then I was sent upstairs to work the door and missed the entire thing. That said, I did eventually get around to obtaining a copy of his Childish Prodigy LP (still canâ€™t decided if thatâ€™s the lamest title of all time) and have been enjoying it since.
His next effort, the Small Shells EP, sounds similar to Childish Prodigy (hereafter referred to as CP), but itâ€™s just not quite as good. First, each song starts with a stellar opener: CPâ€™s raucous â€œHunchbackâ€ and Small Shellsâ€™s melodic â€œOcean City.â€ Both are great first tracks, but also misleading and a bit mis-representative of the rest of the albumâ€”not that there needs to be a cohesive theme, but they both subsequently veer into the instrumental realm (small shells in particular seems to have a pulse to it that ebbs and flows with each successive song). Following â€œOcean Cityâ€ is â€œInvisibility: Nonexistentâ€: a fickerpicked number thatâ€™s enlarged with nice effects and a melancholic melody that ambles nicely to a somber tone. In fact, each consecutive song seems to slow the albumâ€™s pace, creating a pretty subdued, atmospheric mood, until itâ€™s broken, that is, with the more upbeat, yet introspective Bright Eyes-esque, â€œI know I Got Religionâ€: spoken word-style singing and pick-less guitar strumming. Itâ€™s a pretty good jam until his lyrics start to run into ick territory with phrases such as, â€œWhen Iâ€™m blue, Iâ€™ll write a strummer for you.â€ Thatâ€™s just me being a stickler for clichÃ©, I guess. But, again, after this relative high point itâ€™s back to the downer-ish material.
All in all, itâ€™s a decent lo-fi album thatâ€™s jacked up with effects to give it an ethereal quality that more or less works. Personally I prefer the acoustic numbers because they demonstrate his ability to write straight, catchy pop tunes, and I think that overall it could use a couple more rockers like â€œHunchbackâ€ from CP, and/or just some generally upbeat tunes, but, he wrote it and not me, so what can you do. Pick it up if youâ€™re into the DIY Brooklyn scene and want to catch a relatively new sorta-hot thing.