In the past, Kurt Vile has released quality music and solid albums, but on Smoke Ring For My Halo Vile proved his talent as a musician and released his best album to date. Taken out of the context of his prior work, this is still an amazing album. With each song all the emotion of Vile can be felt over everything else. Vile went so far back into the influences of rock that this album is practically the blues. While listening to this album it is easy to picture Vile playing these songs by himself in a room with smoke rings all around him making the title of this album more applicable than many others today. The realism of the title exemplifies the album perfectly. Each track feels real and a believable experience that Vile has had in his life and wants the world to see.
Each song is moving in its own way. The album is engaging in a way not seen often. The first track “Baby’s Arms” sets the album up perfectly. Starting with a slow melodic guitar with interesting rhythmic instruments the tone of the album is exemplified. The majority of the album progresses at a slow steady pace, but it is necessary in order to feel everything Vile wants his listeners to feel in these tracks. His moving vocals would not work on a fast-paced, blazing, rock song and he understands this. He does not want to make music this way. He knows the type of music he is suited for and pursued perfection in that area with this album.
The single “Jesus Fever” is the one song that sticks out on this album. The most notable difference is the upbeat tempo compared to the rest of the album. It is understandable why this was the first single off the album. It is the most radio-friendly song of the bunch. Although it does have a different feel from the rest of the album, when listening to the lyrics it is clear how this song fits into the rest of the record.
The rest of the songs do not stand out as “Jesus Fever” does, but that is a great aspect of this record. Everything flows together and song after song more of Vile’s personality and views can be felt. Smoke Ring For My Halo is the most personal album of the year and one of the most in recent memory. Vile proved himself on this album. Nearly all the critiques of his early albums he corrected and improved upon. Listening to this album in order and all the way through is needed in order to understand Vile’s growth as a musician. Smoke Ring For My Halo may end up being the best rock/blues album of all of 2011.
LISTEN: “Jesus Fever”
WPGU Music Staff Rating: W-P-G-½
Key Tracks: “Jesus Fever”, “Baby’s Arms”, and “In My Time”.
Recommended if you like: The War on Drugs, Real Estate and Atlas Sound.
W = Poor
W-P = Fair
W-P-G = Great
W-P-G-U = An instant classic!