Kurt Vile's name is a masterpiece of reductive classification, evoking all kinds of gritty rock n' roll signifiers, from trashed hotel rooms to sneering punk attitude. He sounds like he could have been the bassist from the Germs, punning on Kurt Weill's name while summing up the faint suggestion of danger that clings to his own music like the smell of cigarette smoke. That it's his actual name hardly seems to matter, except as another reflection of how effortless his music and persona appear.
Vile's music is inflected with a special kind of magic, which makes it sound grimy while remaining melodically clean, bored and disinterested while granting you its full attention. He writes songs that are suffused with snotty brashness, despite the fact that he barely raises his voice. Tracks like "Society Is My Friend" don't contain that many parts, hinging on some scant guitar touches, a rotating, affectless vocal line, and a slow but relentless drumbeat. Its five minutes and 39 seconds seem even longer for the way Vile nudges its hypnotically assembled elements toward a sluggish roundabout ending, a progression that involves those elements slowly breaking down as the song moves along.
Vile's long tracks are all adept at playing out this kind of slow-burn dynamic, making use of a sauntering pace and looping parts to create a kind of blissed-out merry-go-round of understated snark and minimalist guitar. "Peeping Tom" is a dissertation on line readings, with Vile stretching and tweaking the phrase "I was a Peeping Tom" again and again, accentuating different parts to varying effect. This method is taken to its peak on closer "Ghost Town," where Vile's vocals disintegrate into a sustained didgeridoo wail that eventually merges with a buzzing, downed-power-line guitar drone. Like his name, like a found object that seems to inspire his entire process, his music is amazingly evocative while feeling completely natural.