There is no avoiding it. In fact by the end of the record you’ll be embracing it warmly. Kurt Vile’s music purely, simply and beautifully evokes one feeling; that of Americana. From Chicago blues, to folk revival to the sound of 60’s New York, it’s all here woven together in a modern tapestry.
Smoke Ring For My Halo is the fourth album from Philadelphia guitar maestro and songwriter Kurt Vile. The sounds are classic but the production is modern. The vocals on ‘Baby’s Arms’ and ‘On Tour’ could easily come from a lost Lou Reed or Leonard Cohen album, but it’s presented in a lush and expansive soundscape of reverbs and delicate backing instrumentation. It almost sounds as if someone from the arty end of electronic music has come in to put on the polish.
However, no matter how much is added to the core, these songs are very much about Vile and his writing; even the sequenced drums on ‘In My Time’ don’t detract from the fret work. The album’s title clearly evokes the general mood. Perhaps cliché is the sultry, disenfranchised singer songwriter telling of us of their woes, but so classic is the influence and sound, and so genuine is the delivery that you don’t doubt his authenticity, you just enjoy it.
Take a seat and pay this album the attention it deserves and you really will find something special. ‘Jesus Fever’ and ‘Society Is My Friend’ with its U2-esque twang, provide a lighter pace and change of tack from the darker and denser tunes, like the title track. Whether acoustic or electric everything here shows a great appreciation for the nuance in the arrangement bringing in numerous flourishes of percussion of synth to bolster the main. These all could have been left to a solo sound, but the experience is warmer and deeper for the extra detail. This said ‘Peeping Tomboy’ was left as is, and is quite beautiful.
At times Kurt Vile sounds like one of the Lost Boys who grew up with a great American record collection in his tree house before he hit reality hard, but don’t let that tarnish you view of his work. Smoke Ring For My Halo is not groundbreaking, it’s not going to change your life but it’s unfair to expect that of every album that comes your way. Kurt Vile will charm you, and welcome you in to his world, where soon he is sure to be considered one of the classic American songwriters.
Label: Matador Records