The songs on So Outta Reach were technically written during the same sessions that brought us Smoke Ring for My Halo, Kurt Vile's still-resonant 2011 breakthrough, but the boundaries separating Vile's recordings, at this point, are growing irrelevant: His discography is starting to blur into one long, drawn-out sigh.
Like other cultishly obsessive songwriters, however, Vile manages to repeat himself without strictly repeating himself. Images and phrases cycle through his lyrics like tumbling socks in a dryer-- he mumbles the phrase "two packs of red apples" on both "Red Apples" from 2009's God Is Saying This to You, and again on Halo's "Runner Ups". His releases often feature alternate versions of the same song, which happens here with "Life's a Beach" and "(so outta reach)", the second a faint echo of the first's muted shuffle. These are the sorts of subliminal tugs that map out the contours of a universe, and Vile has carefully built one with small tools-- his mutter, a bottomless cavern of reverb, and glimmering tangles of guitars-- and painted it a dozen shades of steel-blue and watery gray.
So Outta Reach, then, is a dispatch, another stop along a journey, and it's as good a place to tune into his frequency as any. "The Creature", the opening song, spins out another fragile variation on the wearily bemused blues he's perfected. His acoustic fingerpicking remains stunning, a narcotic blur of voicing that recalls his friend and former touring partner Jack Rose. Like Rose, or like early Elliott Smith, Vile's playing retunes your hearing to the limitless possibilities of the plain old acoustic guitar.