Kurt Vile “Smoke Ring For My Halo”


Today’s Cool Album of the Day (#656 in the Series) is Kurt Vile, Smoke Ring For My Halo

Isn’t it fantastic when you can watch and listen to an artist grow, mature, and improve with each new album release? It’s as if we were all present at the birth, first day of school, graduation, and wedding, looking on with tearful pride as if they were our own offspring.

Kurt Vile’s fourth release Smoke Ring For My Halo sees the Philadelphia native move further away from his lo-fi beginnings, include a generous sprinkling of folk-tinged dissatisfaction, and dive head-first into no-holds-barred self-reflection. Touring band the Violators continue to lend welcome support on this reflective and melancholy album, adding body and beauty to Vile’s exquisitely-crafted songs.

While Dylan may have shook things up by going electric, Vile has done the opposite, stripping songs down to single or dual guitars, his perfectly out-of-synch vocals and delicately poised percussion, revealing more detail in his wistful conversations with himself than ever before.

Unconventional opener “Baby’s Arms” is a straight-up love song, showcasing Vile’s brilliantly understated guitar work, which continues throughout the album. “Jesus Fever” confirms Vile’s fondness for a vaguely-religious lyric, and wouldn’t sound out of a place on a Jackson Browne album circa 1976.

“Puppet to the Man” plays like a chilled out “Layla” but with more guitar breaks and a menacing lyric alluding to escaping being stuck in a rut. Vile tends to repeat many lyrics throughout his songs, which doesn’t work for every singer, but his increasingly-engaging disenchantment makes it work.

Society is my friend, he makes me lie down, in a cool blood bath,” he sings in “Society is My Friend”, the need for escape being a recurring topic in Vile’s lyrics. “Society is all around, it takes me down” he continues, in possibly the most downbeat track on the album, despite the pounding drum work.

“Runner Ups,” probably Smoke Ring For My Halo’s best track, continues the self-analysis. “My best friend’s long gone, but I’ve got runner ups, my whole life’s one big running gag,” is tempered with the more positive “If it ain’t workin’, take a whiz on the world,” over some beautiful dual-guitar, synth, and vibro slaps.

“In My Time” follows the same formula with less impact, despite the fuzzed-out psychedelic guitar break, while “Peeping Tomboy” is another sullen lament over Vile’s beautiful tinkling guitar. Title track “Smoke Ring For My Halo” again sees Vile in reflective mood and pondering the inevitability of finding himself stuck in another rut. “I feel like layin’ down… aw what a mess I’m in,” he sings, as if his very talent is a burden to him.

Smoke Ring For My Halo is an album made by a man of another time and place; someone who has never fitted in with the latest vogue, or never will, much like his friend and kindred spirit J. Mascis. Not that this will matter one bit to Kurt Vile; he is too busy making the kind of music more successful bands could only dream of, in a way dictated by nobody but himself. Each listen reveals a little more, and even coaxes the listener back to see what else they can find. A truly mesmerising album.

– Paul McBride, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia

Track listing

  1. “Baby’s Arms” – 3:56
  2. “Jesus Fever” – 3:46
  3. “Puppet To The Man” – 3:52
  4. “On Tour” – 5:26
  5. “Society Is My Friend” – 5:39
  6. “Runner Ups” – 4:00
  7. “In My Time” – 3:47
  8. “Peeping Tomboy” – 4:24
  9. “Smoke Ring For My Halo” – 4:45
  10. “Ghost Town” – 6:23


  • Kurt Vile – Farfisa Organ, Guitar Mellotron, Piano, Sequencers, Slide Guitar, Synthesizer, Synthesizer Organ
  • Meg Baird – Vocals
  • Lea Cho – Keyboards, Piano
  • Adam Granduciel – Bass, Mellotron, Percussion
  • Michael Johnson – Drums
  • Mary Lattimore – Harp
  • Mike Polizze – Bass
  • Jesse Turbo – Bass, Guitar, Guitar Feedback, Slide Guitar
  • Mike Zanghi – Drums, Percussion


Listen to this great album below.

Posted by Larry Carta

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