My Hand Is Not For You To Hold: Smoke Ring For My Halo Turns 10

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Kurt Vile – Smoke Ring For My Halo

Released March 8th, 2011 on Matador Records

Produced by John Agnello and Kurt Vile

Peaked at #154 US

Kurt Vile helped found The War On Drugs with Adam Granduciel, who was also the main guitarist for Kurt Vile’s solo backing band, The Violators. The two eventually went their own way and did their own thing: Vile’s last contributions to The War On Drugs would be on Slave Ambient, which also turns ten this year, and Granduciel left The Violators shortly after Smoke Ring For My Halo was released to concentrate more on The War On Drugs, which obviously worked out in the end. There is some definite crossover between the two works, as you might imagine. Both feature a laid-back sound that sounds as though you’re stoned and leaning back in your easy chair. Smoke Ring For My Halo is less diffused, though; it has a headshop immediacy, a focus on man and guitar that gets subdued on a record like Slave Ambient. The opening track, “Baby’s Arms”, is, for all of its slacker love song ethos, a remarkably focused recording. “Jesus Fever” follows it up with a jaunty little hook, something his band wouldn’t get around to figuring out until he was long gone from their lineup. “Puppet To The Man”, co-written with Granduciel, was written and recorded along with “Society Is My Friend” when Matador requested a couple of rockers to complement the record, which Vile said was written as a sort of form of Appalachian folk tunes. That they don’t sound out of place on the record is a testament to the sort of strength of vision that the album showed from the young artist. He would go on to double down on the sound he presented on Smoke Ring For My Halo, expanding the pyschedelic haze and stretching out his legs to great effect.

One of the best things about Kurt Vile is that he just seems like such an affable guy. He’s a husband, a father, and a guy with an easy smile. He makes music for himself and he has the confidence to know that there are a lot of stoners out there who are looking for just such a laid-back sound, albeit one shot through with the occasional burst of darkness (like on the ‘burn it all to the ground’ dirge of “On Tour” or his warning of the need to “punch the future in the face” on “Runner Ups”). The sound has been refined since then, at length, but Smoke Ring For My Halo acted as a great demonstration for him to him to showcase his friendly, liquid voice and that relentless acoustic percussion he layers in the background of everything.

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