Kurt Vile knows the difference between the hauntingly intimate and subtle and the underwritten and just plain boring.
Ever since Springsteen dropped the made-at-home-on-a-cheap tape recorder minimalist masterstroke “Nebraska,” singer-songwriters have been attempting to re-create that unstudied, raw and deeply personal ambience. Most of them have failed, because the key to making this kind of music lies in the strength of the songs themselves, not merely their mode of delivery – not every song is meant to be whispered into the listener’s ear, and a DIY approach will not transform a lackluster tune into a “I tracked this on my couch” tour de force.
Vile, whose sixth album, “b’lieve I’m goin’ down,” landed near the top of a few dozen influential “best of” lists last year, has infused his best work with intimacy and ambience, captured with an air of spontaneity, peppered with self-deprecating wit and sprinkled with the glitter of hard-won truths.
His richly layered approach to what is at heart a direct and uncluttered mode of expression sets him apart from the majority of his peers, many of whom have come to worship the process of recording the art more than the art itself. There is a fine line between vulnerability and cloying self-pity, and Vile is always on the right side of it.
Kurt Vile and the Violators perform at 8 p.m. March 31 at Asbury Hall in Babeville (341 Delaware Ave.) Purling Hiss opens. Tickets are $25 (box office, ticketweb.com).