REVIEW: Kurt Vile – “Smoke Ring For My Halo”

Kurt Vile / Smoke Ring For My Halo / Matador Records

The smoke ring around Philadelphia guitarist and songwriter Kurt Vile’s halo must be quite thick, and more than a little pungent, if the spacey mellow tracks on his latest album are any indication. Vile’s voice, which makes the stream-of-consciousness-style verses on “Peeping Tomboy” seem all the more poetic, belongs on a tributary somewhere between Tom Petty, Thurston Moore and Bob Dylan – just, not 2011 Grammy Awards Bob Dylan.

The musical backing runs the gamut from a lone acoustic guitar, to an atmospheric alt rock setting (“Society Is My Friend”), to that smooth radio-friendly sound that defined both the early ’60s and the late ’90s (“In My Time”). There’s a similar ‘strung out artist in a lonely world of his own creation’ vibe found throughout the disc as in some of the earlier solo work from ex-Red Hot Chili Pepper John Frusciante, but this collection is an infinitely easier listen than Niandra Lades And Usually Just a T-Shirt. Even if the idiosyncrasies of Vile’s lyrical phrasing strike you as a little weird, the way he pairs his vocals with intertwined, brooding guitar melodies brings to life these really deeply felt emotions that weren’t there at first glance.

Download: “Peeping Tomboy”, “Runner Ups”

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