I miss Elliott Smith a lot. I didn’t know him personally, but I knew his music. He would appear on my CMJ New Music Monthly CDs quite often back in the last 1990s, either as a member of Heatmiser or as a solo artist during the pre-Good Will Hunting days. There was something about his music that connected with me. It was typically acoustic-based, it usually bored on depressing, but the hook, the melody was undeniably gorgeous.
Gus Van Sant’s liberal use of Elliott Smith’s music in the movie Good Will Hunting introduced him to the general public, but he continued to make beautiful music until he died in 2003. For me, no one has replaced that void for an acoustic, sensitive yet slightly dangerous, musically superior, dark, but not emo singer-songwriter I need to occupy that portion of my endless musical shuffle. Kurt Vile is coming close.
I really don’t know much about Kurt Vile. He’s received great reviews for his latest album. I like what I’ve read and I’m always up for something new and different. I haven’t heard anyone since Smith passed away that latched onto what he was doing and carried it forward. Kurt Vile, at least in this year’s album Smoke Ring For My Halo, seems to have a pretty good grasp. He seems to take Elliott Smith and add a dash of Bob Dylan. At least, that’s what I hear.
I listen to this and find myself in a melancholy mood. I see light blue. I feel a bit of uncertainty, but it feels comforting. In fact, it feels real good. Having the answers to the test is boring as shit. Flying in the face of danger is infinitely more satisfying. Vulnerability is sexy.
“Baby’s Arms” represents the best of what I see in Kurt Vile. It’s not perfect, it’s not all that clean, it’s a bit distant. But it resonates and moves. It’s vulnerable and romantic. I dig it.