Thursday, June 2, 2011

Kurt Vile Has A Smoke Ring For A Halo

Kurt VileThe Philly-based singer/songwriter sometimes accused of mumbling, even being unintelligible, has put forth his best full-length release. Smoke Ring For My Halo quashes detractors. Kurt Vile has found his voice.

"It could give the mistake that I’m all bummed out, but there’s humor in there," Vile told AV Club. "There are a couple sides to my sound, but this focuses on the epic-folk spectrum."

Vile has always been a loner and his work reflects it. At times, while beloved among his dedicated fan base, it seemed like he might never find his footing. But that all changed with the release of his 2009 LP Childish Prodigy.

It may even be that the EP released between Prodigy and Halo, called Square Shells, served as a transition. It seemed to be a transition in his career between point A and point B.

Smoke Ring For My Halo is a huge leap forward for the long-haired brooder.

Released by Matador Records and recorded at the Magic Shop by John Agnello, Smoke Ring For My Halo is Vile's cleanest production. He also tapped his touring band, the Violators, to record with him this time. But that doesn't mean Vile stopped mixing things up. He does. However, the real standout is that he allows his voice to have a real presence. It's his main instrument.

Although known for his lo-fi indie vibe, this set highlights a much more layered sound, from the folksy Jesus Fever to the guitar riffs on Puppet To the Man.

His odd lyrics, however, haven't changed. They have always been fraught with emotion and a sense of loneliness, and this outing is no different. It could be that Vile is throwing a pity party and fortunate listeners are invited to watch it all unravel firsthand.

Vile has been compared to Tom Petty and Bob Seger so many times that I've lost count. However, it does make some sense this time given the nod to classic rock with a little bit of psychedelic and a dash of finger picking thrown in for good measure. It's all laid back, but equally dark and bleak in the right places. It's especially so on Baby’s Arms and On Tour.

Vile often presents himself as full of despondency and self-reflection. He'll convince you he is a guy who is doleful about life and people passing him by. But he also manages to convey it all with a wonderfully gritty voice, setting himself apart from any singer/songwriter peers.

Smoke Ring For My Halo by Kurt Vile Smokes A 5.6 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale

Kurt Vile and the Violators are on tour now. Check for them in Massachusetts and Canada in July. After that, they will be heading to the Midwest and Pacific Northwest, including stops in Portland and Vancouver. Not bad for a former forklift driver.

You can find Smoke Ring For My Halo on iTunes or check out Smoke Ring For My Halo (Amazon Exclusive Version) on Amazon. The album is also available at Barnes & Noble.
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