On Smoke Ring for My Halo, Kurt Vile’s second full-length album for Matador Records, the Philadelphia-based singer/songwriter sounds at home and relaxed. Having scored a huge success with his previous LP Childish Prodigy, Vile has the luxury of taking a somewhat laid-back approach in the production of his new record. This works to his distinct advantage on Smoke Ring For My Halo.
Vile’s most obvious influences all trade in the sort of Americana which simply doesn’t work if it sounds like you’re posing or trying too hard. Hints of Tom Petty, Graham Parsons and Springsteen abound. It’s no mystery why MC5 legend Wayne Kramer selected Vile’s “He’s Alright” to close out the finale episode of the most recent season of HBO’s Eastbound and Down. It is exactly the sort of pretention-free roots rock that one might expect to hear during a long drive with a dejected Kenny Fuckin’ Powers, and ended the season on a remarkably high note.
Vile’s relatively-clean electric guitar jangle effortlessly propels his smokey, lackadaisical delivery through stoner ballads of religious disillusionment and musings on indifference and ambiguity. There’s a certain economy to the songwriting here that is admirable, especially coming as it has in an era where indie music is largely defined by an overabundance of lush harmonies and jammy meanderings. On March 1st, bring your laid-back ‘tude and unaffected slouch to the Back Bay and catch some Vile tunes new and old in the cozy environs of a late-afternoon in-store performance at Newbury Comics.
[TUESDAY 3.1.11. Kurt Vile. Newbury Comics, 332 Newbury St. Boston, MA. 5:00pm/All Ages/free. Newbury Comics]