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Baker's Dozen

Psychedelic Meditation: Kurt Vile's Favourite Albums
Laurie Tuffrey , November 11th, 2015 13:13

As he starts the UK leg of touring b'lieve i'm goin down…, the Philadelphian singer-songwriter goes from live free jazz to dry-humoured piano sketches in picking 13 albums that steered the sound of his sixth album

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Photograph courtesy of Marina Chavez

"But it's also like, how many times do I have to say 'Neil Young' in an interview?" says Kurt Vile, laughingly acknowledging that his choice of records for his Baker's Dozen may run counter to expectations. "Which is true, but it's almost like, the more you talk about it, after a while, you just have to switch it up. But these are definitely direct influences."

What these records - multiple instalments from some of the jazz cosmos' finest, John and Alice Coltrane and Pharoah Sanders, and a trio from Randy Newman among them - are directly influencing is Vile's sixth album, b'lieve i'm goin down…. Sure, instrumentally and vocally, the album may tip its hat more to the Canadian singer-songwriter vet, but the imprint of the selected records is firmly felt. Taking the glutinous, perfectly-formed songcraft of 2011's Smoke Ring for My Halo, woven with analogue warmth and open-tuned fingerpicking, Vile spins the tracks out, letting 'All In A Daze Work' and 'Lost My Head There's instrumental outros run through their minimal chord transitions over and again, cycling within their own firmament. These are wed to Vile's concise, playful way with lyrics, sketching out a cast of characters on '...Daze Work', emotional plain-speaking on 'Wild Imagination' or being dryly hysterical on 'That's Life, Tho (Almost Hate To Say)' - try unhearing Vile's Philadelphia drawl intoning a scene of being "just a certified badass out for a night on the town" after one play.

Vile got himself acquainted with almost all of the albums by burning them onto CD from the original vinyl and listening through headphones on his way to Rancho De La Luna, the studio in Joshua Tree in California's High Desert used for some of b'lieve…'s recording. That kind of intensive listening comes through in Vile's descriptions of the albums: he speaks quickly about them, weaving mimics of particular parts or snatches of words alongside what he's gleaned from external research - an early love for Jerry Lee Lewis inherited from his dad got furthered by reading an article by Nick Kent in a book sent to him by Adam Granduciel, his long-term friend and one-time bandmate in The War On Drugs.

The love for the 13 records is self-evident, and Vile talking through them feels like a reflection of his own music, matching the same open-hearted, deeply felt conviction in admiring the "sweetness" of Sanders' saxophone playing to putting a high price on humour, laughing uproariously at a Newman punchline or assessing the colourful life of "bad motherhumper" Jerry Lee Lewis. Looking back over his list at the end, he notes that all his choices, bar The Dead C, are from the States. "Yeah, it's sort of American fucking demented shit. Ah, I'm sure Randy Newman had his demons... I guess all these people are just American characters." And so, on with the introductions.

b'lieve i'm goin down… is out now on Matador. Kurt Vile plays Concorde 2 in Brighton tonight before touring; for full details and tickets, head here. Click on the image below to begin scrolling through Kurt's choices, which run in no particular order


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Nov 11, 2015 3:31pm

I think he's pulling a Dan Bejar on you, Quietus.

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Nov 11, 2015 3:41pm

Ah, that's lovely ...

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No Refugee
Nov 11, 2015 4:26pm


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Nov 11, 2015 6:05pm

Well that's, well, a few artists there.

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cringin' cringin' number 9
Nov 11, 2015 6:10pm

"...I burned that from a vinyl..."

[a vinyl]


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Records are Records
Nov 11, 2015 9:33pm

Need to change the article title to "Kurt Vile's 13 Random CD-Rs He Found On the Floor of His Car After Bingeing On Randy Newman and Spiritual Jazz for a Month".

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F Again
Nov 12, 2015 3:00am that's why the piano's beautiful, but that's got the McCoy Tyner or whatever thing in it...

Real scholar, this guy.

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Nov 12, 2015 6:10am

"Yes, baby, I been drinking, and I shouldn't come by I know, but I found myself in trouble, and I had nowhere else to go." 'Peel Tea'? Did I miss something? That's the lyric to 'Guilty.'

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Nov 12, 2015 11:54am

Surprisedd KV didn't note the Flamin Groovies over of "Have You Seen My Baby," from by very very very far their besy albim, "Teenage Head"-- their later ersatz Brit period is dogshit. Kurt should have repped Philly's own Archie Shepp at least once but can't complain about what's here.

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Nov 12, 2015 12:26pm

Pleeeeeeease no more Coltranes, Miles Davises or Stravinkies in another list. We Know you're faking it.
By the way, 12 songs is Newman's unique overrated album. Boring as hell.

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Satchidananda Esta
Nov 12, 2015 4:12pm

Great piece, though you mispelled RICHIE, of Richie Records / Watery Love notoriety.

Also, though KV is notably dull live, this was a great list; if as, another poster suggested, he listens to some Impulse-era Archie Shepp next time, he might open up lyrically and also onstage.

Anyone who thinks this was a good, btw, reveals only their own ignorance of Kurt's music and his Philly musical roots.

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coltrane, sanders, et al
Nov 12, 2015 5:02pm

when will these dweebs stop trying to convince us of their DEEP bonafides by name checking these albums over and over again, and start trying to convince us by actually making interesting music instead of boring, bog-standard indie rock?

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Charles Hodgson
Nov 12, 2015 10:36pm

In reply to Satchidananda Esta:

"...anyone who thinks this was a good, btw..."
A good___what? & Do tell us more about the Philly scene and Kurt's roots. Here in the UK we could NEVER hope to understand, obviously.

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Charles Hodgson
Nov 12, 2015 10:41pm

I do have some Richie Records; Watery Love, Mordecai. Good label. Is Siltbreeze a Philly label? Thought Tom Lax lived in Florida now. Anyway, waiting for enlightenment.

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Satchidananda Esta
Nov 13, 2015 3:36am

In reply to Charles Hodgson:

apologies-- that was a typo. anyone who thinks this was GOOF...

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Nov 13, 2015 8:03pm

Flamin' Groovies x Randy Newman = ROCK (& ROLL)

Something Kurt Vile seems incapable of.

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Nov 14, 2015 3:20am

Link wray's 1972 album in the first pic. Really awesome record.

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Teddy dogs
Nov 15, 2015 7:18pm

This guy couldn't be bothered . That's good, that's healthy.....

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Tom Jeeter
Nov 15, 2015 10:20pm

Kurt is so overrated. HIs songs are boring and self-absorbed, he can't write a bridge to save his life, and he can barely sing. It would be fine if there was some soul there, but there isn't. As for all the jazz on this list, the last Philly band that really took Coltrane seriously was Vibrolux. Saw them in Ohio and they were the real deal.

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Nov 15, 2015 10:33pm

A sorta playlist of a lotta of that stuff -

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