Smoke Ring for My Halo

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Smoke Ring For My Halo
Studio album by Kurt Vile
Released March 08, 2011
Recorded Mar 2010 - May 2010
Genre Indie rock, lo-fi
Length 45:48
Label Matador Records
Producer John Agnello, Kurt Vile & the Violators
Kurt Vile chronology
Square Shells
(2010)
Smoke Ring for My Halo
(2011)
So Outta Reach
(2011)

Smoke Ring for My Halo is the fourth studio album by American indie rock musician Kurt Vile, released on March 8, 2011 on Matador Records. A deluxe edition was released in November 2011, including the subsequent EP, So Outta Reach (2011). The album was produced by John Agnello, Kurt Vile and his backing band, the Violators. Regarding the album's lyrical content, Vile stated: "It’s just me and those thoughts you have late at night when nobody is around. It is more a feeling than a statement – a general wandering feeling. It’s kind of a wandering record."[1]

The album was released to critical acclaim upon its release, with Mojo placing the album at #12 on its "Top 50 albums of 2011" list,[2] while Uncut placed the album at number 14[3] and Pitchfork placed the album at number 16.[4]

Background and recording[edit]

Following the release of Childish Prodigy (2009), Vile and his backing band, the Violators, embarked upon an extensive tour, with Vile stating, "There has been a lot of touring and more growing – more than people might know."[1] The tour was the first to feature the full Violators line-up, with Vile noting, "[It was the] first time the full band could come along. We had kind of a shitty rental van and it was the first time we were all together for that long. At points it was like Lord of the Flies, everyone ready to eat each other up, and then we’re suddenly like best friends again. And we still are best friends."[5]

The band subsequently entered the studio with producer John Agnello. Comparing Smoke Ring for Halo's sessions to his previous studio album, Vile stated, "With Childish Prodigy, I had made a whole record not knowing where I was going – it was me in my studio, somewhere between lo-fi and, maybe not super, hi-fi. [...] I wanted to have a concept of this album being a statement as a whole, as opposed a little bit from here and a little bit from there. It shows a kind of introspective folk side more, while still being into rock. It doesn't capture my whole sound, but it captures part of my sound and is more concise as a record."[1]

During the album's initial recording sessions, Vile attempted to record "kind of trance-like, Appalachian folk-style songs [...] and at the time it was too rushed, and I still hadn't nailed it. I attempted to get these tunes down, but they aren't ready yet."[6] The final two songs to be recorded for the album were "Society Is My Friend and "Puppet to the Man", with Vile stating: "Matador did say, 'It’s great, but there aren’t any rockers on it.' So I [went] back in and recorded a couple rockers, which I’m glad I did. “Society Is My Friend” and “Puppet to the Man” — I recorded them at the end."[7]

Reflecting upon the album in 2013, Vile stated, "I proved myself with Smoke Ring. It was me maturing. I made a good pop record. And all the songs were me, but that was like a growing record. Growing in a lot of ways. But it didn't feel exactly me. I wasn't entirely comfortable or experienced with the scenario, and I feel that [subsequent album, Wakin on a Pretty Daze] is just 100% my voice all the time."[8]

Writing and composition[edit]

Much of the album's material was written on an acoustic guitar, with Vile stating, "I bought a new Martin guitar at the time and I was using at home to get ready to record and it came out real acoustic."[9]

Regarding the religious connotations of the album's second track, "Jesus Fever", Vile stated, "My family was religious – I am not particularly practicing religion myself but I was definitely exposed to it. They were super-religious but not like over-the-top to the point it turns negative. But, it is also kind of a gospel thing – back to old music. The Rolling Stones and Spacemen 3 tap into that religious thing really well, as it is kind of a blues-gospel thing. So, it is a combination of coming from a religious family and that musical lineage."[1]

"Ghost Town" was previously released as "Sad Ghost," a B-side on the single release of "In My Time." The song "Runner Ups" contains some of the same lyrics as the song "Red Apples" from the album, God Is Saying This to You... (2009).

Reception[edit]

Accolades[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 4/5 stars[10]
The A.V. Club (B+)[11]
Drowned in Sound (8/10)[12]
Filter (85/100)[13]
NME (8/10)[14]
The Phoenix 3/4 stars[15]
Pitchfork Media (8.4/10)[16]
PopMatters (7/10)[17]
Rolling Stone 4/5 stars[18]
Slant Magazine 4/5 stars[19]
Spin (9/10)[20]

Following is a table of 2011 end of year list placements by various publications:

Publication Country Accolade Rank
NME UK 50 BEST ALBUMS OF 2011 5[21]
Mojo UK Albums Of The Year 12[22]
Paste US Paste‘s Top 50 Albums Of 2011 44[23]
Pitchfork US The Top 50 Albums of 2011 16[24]
PopMatters US The 75 Best Albums of 2011 11[25]
Q UK Q‘s 50 Best Albums Of 2011 16[26]
Rolling Stone US Rolling Stone Best Albums 2011 39[27]
Spin US SPIN's 50 Best Albums of 2011 4[28]
Stereogum US Stereogum’s Top 50 Albums Of 2011 34[29]
Uncut UK Uncut‘s Top 50 Albums Of 2011 14[30]
gogoyoko ICL gogoyoko albums of the year 2011 1[31]

Track listing[edit]

All songs written by Kurt Vile except where noted.

  1. "Baby's Arms" - 3:56
  2. "Jesus Fever" - 3:46
  3. "Puppet to the Man" - 3:52 (Vile/Granduciel)
  4. "On Tour" - 5:26
  5. "Society Is My Friend" - 5:39
  6. "Runner Ups" - 4:00
  7. "In My Time" - 3:47
  8. "Peeping Tomboy" - 4:24
  9. "Smoke Ring for My Halo" - 4:45
  10. "Ghost Town" - 6:23
  11. "(shell blues)" - 1:01 (Hidden track)

So Outta Reach EP[edit]

A deluxe edition of the album was released including the subsequent EP, So Outta Reach.

  1. "The Creature"
  2. "It’s Alright"
  3. "Life’s a Beach"
  4. "Laughing Stock"
  5. "Downbound Train" (Bruce Springsteen cover)
  6. "(so outta reach)"

Personnel[edit]

Kurt Vile & the Violators[edit]

  • Kurt Vile - vocals, guitars, sequencer (1), synths (2 and 5), piano (2 and 9), Korg (3 and 10), Mellotron (4), Farfisa (7)
  • Adam Granduciel - electric guitar (3, 5 and 9), lead acoustic guitar (6), tremolo guitar (10), bass guitar (3), Mellotron (4), percussion (7)
  • Jesse Trbovich - bass guitar (2 and 9), slide guitar (3), electric guitar (6), vibrato guitar (9), feedback guitar (10)
  • Mike Zanghi - drums (3 4, 5, 6, 7 and 10), percussion (1, 3, 6 and 9)

Additional musicians[edit]

  • Mike Polizze - bass guitar (1, 4 and 10)
  • Lea Cho - ambient keys (1), piano (4), keyboards (10)
  • Mary Lattimore - harp (4 and 10)
  • Rob Laakso - Arp 2600 (1)
  • Meg Baird - backing vocals (1)
  • Michael Johnson - drums (2)
  • John Agnello - vibro slaps (6)

Recording personnel[edit]

  • John Agnello - producer, recording engineer, mixing, overdubs (2 and 7)
  • Kurt Vile & the Violators - producer
  • Jeff Zeigler - recording engineer (2 and 7)
  • Ted Young - assistant engineer
  • Jonathan Low - assistant engineer
  • Matt Boynton - mixing (3)
  • Rob Laasko - mixing (3)
  • Greg Calbi - mastering

Artwork[edit]

  • Shawn Brackbill - band photographs
  • Michael Ast - dumpster photograph

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d Freeman, John. "TLOBF Interview // Kurt Vile". thelineofbestfit.com. Retrieved 24 April 2013. 
  2. ^ "MOJO's Top 50 Albums Of 2011". Stereogum. December 2, 2011. Retrieved December 16, 2011. 
  3. ^ http://stereogum.com/891311/uncuts-top-50-albums-of-2011/list
  4. ^ "Staff Lists: The Top 50 Albums of 2011". Pitchfork Media. December 15, 2011. Retrieved January 8, 2012. 
  5. ^ Ruen, Chris. "Speaking of Banjos: Kurt Vile Explains the Universe". thefader.com. Retrieved 13 August 2012. 
  6. ^ Greene, Jayson. "Q&A: Kurt Vile on His Favorite Bob Seger Song and the Neil Young Solo That Changed His Life". villagevoice.com. Retrieved 24 April 2013. 
  7. ^ http://34st.com/2011/07/kurt-vile-extended-interview/
  8. ^ http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/2013/mar/29/kurt-vile-wakin-pretty-daze
  9. ^ http://www.prefixmag.com/features/kurt-vile-pitchfork-music-festival/pitchfork-music-festival-2011-kurt-vile-interview/54462/
  10. ^ [1]
  11. ^ [2]
  12. ^ [3]
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  14. ^ [5]
  15. ^ [6]
  16. ^ [7]
  17. ^ [8]
  18. ^ [9]
  19. ^ [10]
  20. ^ "SPIN Review". 
  21. ^ http://www.nme.com/list/50-best-albums-of-2011/255135/page/5
  22. ^ http://www.rocklistmusic.co.uk/mojoend.html#2011
  23. ^ http://stereogum.com/890842/pastes-top-50-albums-of-2011/list/
  24. ^ http://pitchfork.com/features/staff-lists/8727-the-top-50-albums-of-2011/4/
  25. ^ http://www.popmatters.com/pm/feature/152303-the-75-best-albums-of-2011/P6
  26. ^ http://stereogum.com/891091/qs-50-best-albums-of-2011/list/
  27. ^ http://www.rocklistmusic.co.uk/rolling.htm#2011
  28. ^ http://www.spin.com/articles/spins-50-best-albums-2011?page=0%2C10
  29. ^ http://stereogum.com/891411/stereogums-top-50-albums-of-2011/franchises/listomania/
  30. ^ http://stereogum.com/891311/uncuts-top-50-albums-of-2011/list/
  31. ^ http://blog.gogoyoko.com/gogoyoko-albums-of-the-year-2011/