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The Deli's March Album of the Month: Smoke Ring For My Halo - Kurt Vile

The Deli's March Album of the Month: Smoke Ring For My Halo - Kurt Vile

Kurt Vile has come a long way since officially releasing his first album and being hastily lumped into the lo-fi bedroom project family. Emerging on the scene with reverb pedal and drum machine underneath his arm, he released Constant Hitmaker in 2008. While the albums title seems somewhat tongue-and-cheek, with the release of three more subsequent LPs, including his newest, Smoke Ring For My Halo, it is hard to deny his prolific songwriting ability with all his creative output in such a short period of time (and that’s not even including all the CD-Rs). The immense talent Vile has for effortlessly crafting songs was quickly revealed with his first two solo creations. The lo-fi nature of the records could hardly contain the complex and tempered songwriting that flourishes with the help of The Violators and a trifecta of professional studios. The following two releases, 2009’s Childish Prodigy and last year’s Square Shells EP are two endearingly different parts of Vile’s schizophrenic songwriting that were skillfully rendered and harnessed on this newest release with the help of producer John Agnello (Dinosaur Jr., The Breeders, Sonic Youth, etc.). The songs are often forward moving, rarely bothering with a conventional “chorus” or other musical tropes instead opting for ever-evolving songs that are carefully crafted but naturally executed. 
Smoke Ring’s biggest changes in terms of Vile’s sound seem to be the increased presence of The Violators in the actual recording and the cleaner but still finely textured production. The album opens with a creak rather than a crash with the beautiful and distant “Baby’s Arms”. When he sings “Hide in my baby’s hands/ because except for her, there just ain’t nothing to latch on to”, he evokes a feeling of haunting solitude that reoccurs throughout the album’s 11 tracks. That being said, Smoke Ring is certainly less rollicking than Childish Prodigy, but it wouldn’t be a proper Vile album without a crunchy, nose-thumbing sludge-rocker like “Puppet To The Man”. Somewhere between the ends of his sonic spectrum sits “Society Is My Friend” which reminds me of a moodier Neil Young track with militant drumming and layers of guitars that are distorted so much that it is hard to tell they are even guitars. The back half of the album settles into a quieter mood that highlights the intricate guitar arrangements and Vile’s lyrical tossing and turning like on the sauntering “Runner Ups” and “Peeping Tomboy”. The album comes to a close and a swell with the pensive, slow-churning number “Ghost Town” that has an “alone in a empty mansion” kind of feel that Vile and his Violators then transform into a slow-burning psych-jam before all of the atmosphere is stripped away leaving Vile alone with his guitar, the same way his musical journey began and how this particular one will end. Smoke Ring For My Halo is my favorite and the most cohesive Vile release so far via Matador Records. The album will be available March 8, but you can stream it here now. - Adam G.
Published: March 01, 2011 |

This Emerging Artist is based in Philadelphia,
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