Kurt Vile : Back to Moon Beach

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Kurt Vile Back to Moon Beach review

Kurt Vile’s latest release, Back to Moon Beach, maintains the qualities of a typical KV album—there are the slower moments, undeniable earworm licks, and Vile’s characteristically playful approach to both his instrumentals and lyrics. But Back to Moon Beach is an odds-and-ends assortment similar to past short-players like 2013’s It’s a Big World Out There, composed of two covers, and seven original songs written during sessions within the past four years, just never included with his previous releases (with the exception of “Cool Water” from 2022’s (watch my moves), the track just trimmed down this time around). It speaks to his ability to constantly churn his stream of consciousness into tracks both haunting and reflective. It likewise showcases the timelessness of his style.

Album opener “Another good year for the roses” is carried by a charming, hopeful piano melody, blended into Vile’s good-time lyrical delivery, complete with “woos” and whirring guitars as the song closes. Joined by frequent collaborators Rob Laasko, Stella Mogzawa, Chris Cohen and Mikel Patrick Avery, the song feels most like a group of friends playing off of each other, having a conversation within their music, and creating for the purpose of being together. Much of the material on Back to Moon Beach sadly marks some of Vile’s final unreleased recordings with Laasko, as he passed in May 2023 after a battle with cancer. Laasko’s mark can be felt on “Touched somethin (caught a virus),” his lap steel adding a somber, reflective tone. 

“Like a wounded bird trying to fly” recalls older Kurt Vile tracks, like “Too Hard” and “That’s Life, tho (almost hate to say),” with its cylindrical acoustic guitar riffs and punchy electric moments. It finds Vile in his storyteller mode, as his songs so often go, Vile exploring the innerworkings of his perspective, finding ways to step out of himself and see it all from the outside. As Vile sings, “Wish the world would stop and take notice of all the disgrace / but then breathe in quite deep and smell all the flowers while in bloom,” there’s a sense of him not only encouraging others to stop and reflect, but also an internal need for his own slowness.

The EP includes covers of Wilco’s “Passenger Side” and Mitch Miller’s “Must Be Santa.” Vile’s relaxed approach to the Christmas track makes it light and breezy, and he is joined by his daughters Awilda and Delphine on vocals, adding a fun layer of familial bonds. On his cover of “Passenger Side,” Vile adds loopy guitars with a shimmering touch as he croons the charming Wilco classic. 

On Back to Moon Beach, Vile once again finds his groove in delivering a brand of rock that’s both salty and brash, while basking in the sun and exuding sentimentality. Vile brings his whole self into his music, letting us trail along behind his wandering mind. His guitar lines frequently imitate this frenetic sense of self, an ebb and flow of both chaos and calmness. It’s a welcomed sound though, one reminding us of our humanness, and by extension, our togetherness. 

Label: Verve

Year: 2023

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