"Square Shells." Kurt Vile. Philly's highly prolific lo-fi singer-songwriter Kurt Vile got his start as a guitarist for psych-pop purveyors The War on Drugs.
Vile soon branched out with a couple of well-received solo EPs and last year's full-length "Childish Prodigy."
Vile's bedroom aesthetic has gained comparisons to everyone from Bob Seger and Tom Petty to Lou Reed and Richard Hell, recalibrating blue-collar Americana and downtown proto-punk as shambling basement-rock.
Vile's latest EP, "Square Shells," splits the difference between rustic folk/rock and humming post-rock vistas, providing a brief blast of his distinct brand of classic-rock revisionism.
Starting off with the Harry-Nilsson-on-Quaaludes vibe of "Ocean City," Vile shows a level of restraint and craft missing from a bulk of his contemporaries. "Square Shells" is void of the more guttural attacks found on past releases, instead mining road-tripping white-boy blues ballads such as "I Wanted Everything" and "I Know I Got Religion."
The instrumental interludes provide little more than atmospheric segues, but set a distinct smoky haze to the outsider status being projected here.
"Invisibility: Nonexistent" is a near epic that brings to mind what Bob Dylan might have sounded like if he had picked up Alan Vega and Thurston Moore as traveling companions -- and the sleepy "Hey, Now I'm Moving" sends the whole thing stumbling for the door, doped-up and drunk at closing time.
Whereas the bulk of the new lo-fi kids won't have much to offer aside from minimal recording techniques and a small amount of screw-up charm, Vile actually shows the songwriting chops to move into richer territory if he chooses to do so.
"Square Shells" has a seemingly throwaway approach that belies the quality of craft underneath -- proving, we're hoping, to be a small taste of what's to come next.