Sunday, March 20, 2011

Kurt Vile: "Smoke Ring for My Halo" — B+

Orignally published for The Maneater 

If Bob Dylan and Sheryl Crow had a child, it would be Kurt Vile. His music combines clever, whispering lines with a constant strumming that – if it weren't for the fuzz – would almost sound country. Returning to the present with his fourth effort, Smoke Ring for My Halo, Vile cements his status as modern day staple of lo-fi heartland rock by producing some of the freshest and finest music of his career. 

Whereas previous efforts were glazed with layer of haze, Smoke Ring for My Halo carries a cleaner, crisper production that effortlessly balances with Vile's causal voice. The memorably charming guitar in standout track "Jesus Fever" adds a breezy quality to the already likable song. The whole album shows Vile proving his knack for clever lyrics with songs like the contrasting "Peeping Tomboy" or "Puppet to the Man" where he sings the sadly potent lyric "By now you probably think I'm a puppet to the man / well, I'll tell you right now, you best believe that I am."

Vile's music has a tattered quality to it and gives impression that Vile's had some character forming experiences. It's wistful but wise – like that cowboy at the end of the bar that's staring down regretfully at his whisky. It reflects the old dust-bowl feeling of desperation but with a more modern touch. 

Smoke Ring for My Halo is like a nice warm of cup of dark coffee. There's a rich fullness to each song, and it keeps the same, strong consistency with each sip. Vile's hushed vocals steam over his melodic guitar with just the right touch of sugar, and though it might not be the best cup of coffee, it's still a pretty good cup of Joe. 

Joel Samson Berntsen (Bros - Panda Bear)

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