Welcome to Kurt Vile’s best record yet. Perhaps your favorite song is culled from one of his earlier efforts; fair enough, but there is no denying that Smoke Ring For My Halo, his fourth LP, is the defining sum total of Vile’s craft. In short, he consistently nails it on the whole as Smoke Ring possesses a through-line his past full-lengths only hinted at.
Occasionally with artists you can sense a storm brewing…something more nuanced than, say, “momentum” but present nonetheless. For those paying attention, this is how it has felt with Vile over the past couple of years, via his various LPs, EPs, singles and shows. On Smoke Ring, produced by John Agnello, we find Vile tightening up his sound without sacrificing an ounce of what made him interesting in the first place. Personality intact, extraneous noise and scruff give way to atmosphere and presence. A haunted psych-folk record, this is a potent sub-strain of American roots music more in the vein of Skip Spence and David Ackles than, say, Gram Parsons or Bruce Springsteen. These are the 21st century blues as sung by a young Philadelphian.