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on 4 September 2011
I've really fallen in love with this incredible album. Vile's offhand and potent lyrics are all the more powerful for sounding so completely closed off from the world.

The first few opening seconds of 'Runner-Ups' is so beautiful that I can usually feel my tear ducts expanding as soon as the guitar rhythm kicks in.

Elsewhere I'm similarly overwhelmed by 'Baby's Arms', when Vile sings '...'cause I will never, ever be alone', and yet the way he intones his voice suggests optimism but also an ambiguity that is heartbreaking.

This is a down-and-out kind of album that is utterly consumed by its own feelings of insignificance, emerging cocoon-like from headphones or hi-fi's with so much empathy and disaffection that I can't quite stomach up the adequate hyperbole to vent how wonderful I think this music is.
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on 10 March 2011
With Conor Oberst perhaps on the wane, or, at least hanging up his Bright Eyes, the cognoscenti have jumped ship - their chosen vessel: that of "in" troubadour Kurt Vile. Earning his spurs in all the right places (at the incandescent Woodsist and Mexican Summer labels amongst others), and touring alongside all the right people (with Ariel Pink, Sonic Youth, Big Star, The National and Dinosaur Jr amongst others), this young Philadephian - remarkably the youngest of ten siblings - now presents his second blue-collar album on Matador and his fourth overall. And, by the sound of it, Smoke Ring For My Halo looks like going stratospheric.

Formerly guitarist in the all-American, "heartland" rock outfit The War On Drugs, this ex-forklift driver's last LP, Childish Prodigy, seems in retrospect a bridge, rather than evolutionary step between Vile's stoned, snotty lo-fi beginnings and today's pedal-free, honest-rock incarnate. "I don't wanna change, but I don't wanna stay the same" he protests on the homely recording "Peeping Tomboy". Yet, Vile has done both. Despite losing 2009's mid-fi echo and feedback - and thus arguably some of that period's appeal - this is an album nevertheless conceived in a grubby bedroom, but one with its eyes on the horizon, one destined for grander things. Successfully finding an alternative middle ground, Smoke Ring For My Halo scrubs up well, but it isn't clean - it's not just cigarette smoke crowding to make that halo you know.

Resolutely bred on a diet of Tom Petty and Bob Seger, Vile sets himself apart from other contemporary FM rockers - think the swollen sonics of the current Band Of Horses set-up - with the help of a cast of many. This cast includes Meg Baird of whispy folksters Espers on backing vocal for the atmospheric album opener "Baby's Arms", as well as his regular band The Violaters who are never far away. And the result, Smoke Ring For My Halo, is an offhand classic - in the sense that it could have been delivered off the cuff anytime in the last forty years. That it would have caused ripples in the rock pond at any time in that period is a credit to Vile alone.

As American then as Springsteen and Dylan, but studiously in charge of his own brand of pessimism, Smoke Ring For My Halo ranges widely, freewheeling between carefully plucked progressions and Neil Young's politicised strumming. Accordingly, Vile draws out his sneer across power chords in the iconic-sounding "Puppet To The Man". Though restrained in its acoustic delivery, the subtly seething "Runner Ups" is equally impressive. Whereas, more overtly gentle inclusions such as Mary Lattimore's harp, as heard on the persuasive strains of "On Tour", add candid depth, melancholy and balance to the collection.

What's best though is that despite its obvious quality Smoke Ring For My Halo doesn't feel like the finished article. Vile has more to come. Make room for another tattoo - on this form you're going to want to keep that one even closer to your heart.

Advised downloads: "Puppet To The Man" and "Runner Ups".
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on 1 August 2011
I downloaded this from Amazon having never heard of him before while trawling for something new to listen to. After reading through the reviews I thought I'd go for it! I'm not dissapointed, very good album. Couple of stand outs so far, On Tour & Society is my Friend. Worth a investigating if you like Phosphorescent, Mosters of Folk...that sort of thing. I will be getting his other releases in time.
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on 28 June 2011
This is simply great. It's the possible next step for anyone who got into John Grant's album of last year. Different dude, different voice, different topics (generally) but his songs take you to secret places in the same way Grant did.

I note that another reviewer here said there was nothing "groundbreaking" here. That's true, in the sense that you could draw a line of influence from Vile to many other singer songwriters of, say, the early 1970s. I'd name Michael Chapman, Bill Fay, a bit of Terry Reid and a dash of Nick Drake... others will hear their own reference points.

Having said that, I have no idea whether Vile has heard any of those artists. The bottom line is this..

He sounds like himself, and there's been nothing much like 'Smoke Ring For My Halo' for many years.
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on 1 October 2012
Knockout stuff from Kurt Vile. This album is a real grower, I love it - atmospheric driving music. Whats not to love!
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 31 January 2016
Kurt Vile, the founding member of indie rock band The War on Drugs is one of my favourite male solo artists on the music scene today. I regard each of his solo albums as pure works of art. There always filled with interesting songs that instantly draw you in, make you reflect, and feel just about every different kind of emotion known to man. With his always identifiable slow and stoner like voice, unique turn of phrasing, and the beautiful stripped-down simplistic arrangements of the music, his forth studio record 'Smoke Ring For My Halo', released in 2011, is another perfect late-night listening slow burner.

This is another great addiction to the Kurt Vile CD collection, and a high recommendation for lovers of psychedelic-folk.
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on 3 January 2012
I went into a record shop and asked what the guy was playing. Bought a copy and its been on every day since. A kind of Lou Reed/Doorsish with its own twist sound, but then that's a little unfair. I think this album will influence future generations of musicians. It's that good. 'On Tour' and 'Peeping Tom' will stay in your head for days. The kind of album, I think, that Ian Curtis would have enjoyed.
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on 11 June 2012
This album was an Amazon recomendation when I bought a Counting Crows album a bit of a punt really, and intially I thought it was going to be a mistake!....... But I've got to say he's grown on me.
Good company on a long drive x
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on 6 June 2011
I heard massively good things about this album from all sorts of people who know what theyre talking about such as Jarvis Cocker and Laurene Laverne to name a couple so I was slightly deflated upon listening to it as it didn't really live up to all the hype for me. I really like the album, it has a raw sound and his voice is luxuriously sexy but really, there was nothing ground breaking about it and I came away feeling as though I had heard it all before. A darkly talented artist but it doesn't compare to some other releases of the same genre recently. All the same it is definitely worth a listen!
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on 21 August 2015
Great voice.
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