Kurt Vile - Smoke Ring for My Halo

10 January, 2012

By Harry Dam


There's a certain buzz surrounding Kurt Vile (KV), with Smoke Ring for My Halo featuring in most best of 2011 lists, including a #3 spot in eclectic Rough Trade's selection. Indie legends Sonic Youth and J. Mascis (Dinosaur Jr.) fully endorsing KV and the acclaimed John Agnello producing Smoke Ring for My Halo have certainly helped Kurt's cause. With all the hype, it is easy to forget that "Smoke Ring for My Halo" is not a debut album but KV's fourth full length album and the second one with the seminal Matador label.

Comparisons also abound, with KV's sound often associated with that of classic folk-rockers Neil Young and Bruce Springsteen and other times with contemporary lo-fi indies Ariel Pink and Bill Callahan.

I admit to have first listened to this record rather late in 2011 and the first plays felt somewhat underwhelming. For an artist with a certain reputation for powerful electric live performances, this is a mostly acoustic, esoteric album that may at times sound too low-key. The record rewards you after a few listens however, revealing its dreamy, pensive character.

"Baby's Arms", the opener, is a personal favourite and an obvious hit, although this is the kind of album that works best when listened to as whole. Other highlights of the LP are its most ethereal, tracks, like
"Ghost Town", "On Tour" and "Runner Ups". Despite the leisurely and airy feeling of the album, KV's lyrics are punchy ("You probably think I'm a puppet to the man well, I'll tell you right now you best believe that I am" in "Puppet to the Man"), or even gloomy at times ("Society is my friend he makes me lie down in a cool blood bath" in "Society is my Friend"), and his voice has a certain rock& roll oomph that puts many of his more electric counterparts to shame.

Bottom line, KV has delivered a gem of a record in Smoke Ring for My Halo, which is however a personal LP consisting mainly of acoustic finger-picked tracks. Notwithstanding the hype, Smoke Ring for My Halo will not appeal to all tastes and will require a second chance to disclose its understated
elegance and charm. Still, it feels like KV has not yet delivered his best work to date and his next release is eagerly anticipated.




Primary Genre: Rock

Subgenre: Lo-fi

Release Date: 8 March 2011

Label: Matador

Influences:  Neil Young , Nick Drake, Lou Reed

Like This And You'll Probably Also Like: Smog, Ariel Pink, Bon Iver

Album HighlightsBaby's Arms, Ghost Town, In My Time









"Even though Harry got me into KV only recently, this is one of those albums that I haven't been able to put down for more than a few hours. The advice about listening to this a lot / giving it a chance is important, try it yourself! I'm feeling a strong 8/10  on this"


 Kurt Vile



Contributor mini-profile

Harry Dam

Harry Dam

8 Fluffy Reviews
"That second hand living it just won't do"
Mini bio
A sucker for Primaverasound festival, the Guardian, Larry David, Mad Men. Old enough to have seen PJ Harvey in Rodon back in, ahemm, 1995. Martial arts hopeful, kiteboarding trainee, ex-banker, havouza-maker, professional procrastinator.  
Favourite Bands / Artists
Yo La Tengo
My Bloody Valentine
Leonard Cohen
The Magnetic Fields