Kurt Vile's previous two albums, Constant Hitmaker (2008) and God Is Saying This to You... (2009), were primarily composed of lo-fi home recordings, recorded over five years from 2003 to 2008. Childish Prodigy, however, marked Vile's first attempt at crafting a cohesive, studio-based album. Vile noted, "It was more involved than anything I had done and it was the first time I worked on something as a whole actual album, as a single piece. The other ones were compiled."
Vile recorded the album with producer Jeff Zeigler, prior to signing to Matador Records, and noted, "The time I went into the studio with Jeff Zeigler, I knew he was into more far-out stuff and kind of crazy gear. It was also more laid back. I didn't have a label knocking on the door to get it done or anything like that, and so we got to know each other and our styles."
Despite being predominately a studio-based album, Childish Prodigy features two home recordings, "Blackberry Song" and "Overnite Religion" recorded with bandmate and frequent collaborator Adam Granduciel.
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