Having started out in his career using many of the same lo-fi tactics that helped produce indie darlings like – Sebadoh, Daniel Johnston, and Elliot Smith – Philadelphia native Kurt Vile hopes to finally reach a larger audience with his latest release Smoke Ring For My Halo.
“I’ve always had at least some amount of support ever since I put out stuff that started in the underground,” he said in a recent Boston Globe article. “But this record is definitely more accessible to the masses, to different types of people than before.”
Whether through the use of adept finger-picking on opening cut “Baby’s Arms” or via the distorted chords of “Puppet to the Man,” Vile’s style continually appears to merge elements of classic rock with the more personal aspects of folk music. Strident guitar strums frequently play over simple drum beats, and extra instrumentation remains limited to the occasional piano or alternative piece of percussion. Lyrically, many tracks seem like collections of tossed-off couplets featuring lines like “I pack my suitcase with myself” and “Cleanse myself with atomic health.” Though his vocals never rise above a Thurston Moore-like croon or J Mascis-mumble, the message here is clearly more about the delivery than the words themselves.
Watch Kurt Vile and his band the Violators tackle the track “Jesus Fever” here:
Unfortunately, despite his record’s obvious refinement and more mainstream production value the end result is decidedly hazy; like wandering half-drunk through a smoke-filled bar to glimpse the house band perform under poor lighting and even poorer haircuts. Still, underneath all the fog there is charm to be had. In fact, when the clouds part long enough to let songs like “In My Time” have their moment in the sun, the outlook for Vile’s future becomes positively bright. Here’s hoping such talent isn’t squandered in days to come.