Kurt Vile – Smoke Ring for My Halo Kurt Vile – Smoke Ring for My Halo

Kurt Vile - Smoke Ring for My Halo

You enter the party through a crowded room you’ve never set foot in before, yet it’s thick in familiarity. The next few moments take a day. The noise level creates a vacuum where the only thing you can hear is yourself. Everything and everyone around you seem to be moving at land speed as you’re swimming through bodies with no real destination. A hundred right eyes wander desperately, briefly fixing on you, in hopes that you’ll provide a distraction; your best wax smile and those gazes are quickly returned to the iphones from which they came. And you’re sopping wet in isolation.

Kurt Vile’s Smoke Ring For My Halo takes place everywhere.

KVs pre-Matador records narrowly beat, or optimistically helped usher in, the onset of the shoegaze revival. The works were met with criticisms not uncommon of other music in the latest iteration of the genre. Principle among the condemnations was the vocals; fuzzed-out all over and when discernable far too obtuse to be meaningful.

In a move foreshadowed by his 2010 Square Shells 12” EP, Vile is now completely out of the muck of lo-fi. In fact one of the strongest parts of Smoke Ring is the crisp and full production value. Certainly part of the richness is due to his backing band, “The Violators” – joining him on several tracks in studio. More striking however are the lyrics.

The meat of the album is KV tearing through his internal turmoil, stemming from his interactions in society. More specifically his relationship with friends, family, women, fans and the expectations others have for him. This territory has already been trudged through by countless artists before Vile but this album never comes off as predictable or cliché. That’s due in large part to a candor so brash that’s it unnerving. Really though, what separates this effort from so many self-reflective, finger picked albums before it is the precision demonstrated by communicating deeply existential thoughts without being superfluous with the wording. It’s surface statements like those from “Puppet to the Man” that deliver wide and glassy eyed moments without reaching, “This one goes out to all those who want the rat to survive / and of course by this I am alluding I want him to die”.

This is the point of the review where protocol dictates us writers are typically supposed to present some shortcoming and then either defend it or acknowledge it as a weakness that can be improved upon. But that’s not going to happen here. The only people who will find themselves disappointed with Smoke Ring For My Halo are those who need a single to access an album, and I choose to view that as a shortcoming with the listener. It’s exceedingly rare to find an album you can listen to all the way through every time you put it on. Even more special is after having an advance of this album for about 90 days I’ve had time to play it way too much, burn out on it, and then come back, only to find that it’s better than I remember.

1. Baby’s Arms
2. Jesus Fever
3. Puppet To the Man
4. On Tour
5. Society is My Friend
6. Runner Ups
7. In My Time
8. Peeping Tomboy
9. Smoke Ring For My Halo
10. Ghost Town

Kurt Vile - Smoke Ring for My Halo, reviewed by Big Ben on 2011-04-19T10:04:07-07:00 rating 4.7 out of 5

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