CD Review: Smoke Ring For My Halo [2011]

Kurt Vile
Release: 3/2011
Label: Matador

1. “Baby’s Arms” – A-
2. “Jesus Fever” – A-
3. “Puppet to the Man” – B
4. “On Tour” – B-
5. “Society Is My Friend” – B
6. “Runner Ups” – C+
7. “In My Time” – B+
8. “Peeping Tomboy” – B-
9. “Smoke Ring For My Halo” – B-
10. “Ghost Town” – B

Comments: Vile’s live show (with the Violators) has always been one of noise and layer. On record, however, the childish prodigy has excelled at displaying a softer side that, while layered in realms of noise, is more delicately catchy and intriguing than the in-person experience. Following the KISS [Keep it simple, stupid…not the band] principle that I’ve always been fond of as a fan of music, Vile can really do a lot with a little. Unfortunately, this record is a continuation of a trend I’ve noticed in Vile’s music over the years: lack of differentiation. I don’t really blame him, but just about every song flows and sounds quite similar to the previous/next one. “In My Time,” which was first released as the title track of his 2010 EP of the same name, belongs in the category of Vile’s stronger set of songs. It features a prominent electric guitar and more memorable melody. In the end, this album don’t impress-uh-me much (to quote Shania Twain), but there definitely are some good listens to be enjoyed in the sea of repetition.

Grade: B (84)

7″ Review: In My Time [2010]

Band: Kurt Vile
Release: 11/2010
Label: Matador Records

1. “In My Time” – B+
2. “Sad Ghost” – B+
3. “Early Dawnin” – B

Comments: This is Vile’s second release of 2010. The first was Square Shells EP, a small collection of mellow tunes. “In My Time” is soft and pretty catchy. It’s not among Vile’s best tunes, but it fits right in line with what he’s done. Same goes for “Sad Ghost” and “Early Dawnin.” Vile is a great musician and a chill fit for most occasions. If you are looking for light acoustics and generally light instrumentation all around, try this out.

Grade: B (86)

Harpers Ferry Closing

Farewell Harpers, I saw several great artists at your venue including Jay Reatard, Box Elders, Hunx and His Punx, Nobunny, Trevor Hall, Kurt Vile, Real Estate, TV Smith, Pretty and Nice, amongst others. Not to mention the long list of notable artists I did not see perform there. So long!

Concert Review: Deerhunter, Kurt Vile, K-Holes @ Royale (8/13/10)


Bands: K-Holes/Kurt Vile/Deerhunter
Date:  Friday, August 13, 2010
Venue: Royale (Boston, MA)

Act One– K-Holes – I liked these guys and girls a good amount better this time around than on the Rocks Off NYC cruise concert. Jack Hines and crew rocked out what I now term horror punk. They play with a certain mystique that really comes out when the trumpet is on full blast and when the lady vocalist sings and utilizes the shaker. When Hines sung, I couldn’t help but think of We Did Not Know era Black Lips…like on “Swamp Fires.” Other songs definitely played were “Native Tongues,” “Step N Fetch It,” and “The Gutter.”

Chris– Glen speaks the truth here. K-Holes are Kickass! They have a simple vibe to them, but present themselves in a very solemn, quiet manner that draws you in and never lets you go. Jack Hines’ frenetic guitar playing and Cole-like screaming demonstrate that his Black Lips roots are still evident.

Act TwoKurt Vile and the Violators – True story: Kurt was boring and musically draggy in July when he headlined at Harpers Ferry. At that time, it seemed like him and the other guitarist were going heavy on the effects and slacking mightily on replicating some of their best recorded songs. This time, with the crucial assistance of a third guitar player, songs like “Freeway” (the best number these guys cranked out) and “Overnite Religion” bordered on greatness. Whatever they didn’t have at the Harpers Ferry gig, they seemed to have at the Royale on this night. They might have even overstayed their welcome…the sound guys at stage left frantically signaled “ONE MORE AND THAT’S IT” after about thirty or forty minutes of playing. I’m pretty much all set with seeing Vile headline for a while (a year, at least), but I wouldn’t be opposed to catching him and crew again as an opener.

Chris– With the “technical difficulties” omitted I began to notice the “Americana” elements of Vile’s music, I had missed before. I did gather some Peter Framptonish vibes. A noisy Frampton comin’ alive, if you will. Still, not exactly my cup of tea, but I did enjoy myself this time around.

Act ThreeDeerhunter – Deerhunter fans seem to be a real loyal and passionate bunch. Maybe that’s why Bradford, Lockett, Moses, and Josh keep coming back. Bradford said the band arrived late…which explains their five minute sound-check. As far as sound-checks go, this one was as informative as can be. Bradford explained the origin of the various instruments that compose the drum set while Moses tested them out. Early on in the set there existed some technical difficulties that I couldn’t even notice. The sound guys seemed pretty convinced that something was wrong AND one of them even unplugged Josh’s bass by accident while trying to remedy the situation. Hehe. His bass sounded kind of distorted the entire night which worked well 90% of the time, but at times felt a tidbit random. At any rate, Deerhunter played an excellent set albeit a short one. I’d say they played about ten songs at maximum; quantitatively it felt like an opening act kind of set, but qualitative it had no shortage in glory. Songs that stuck out to me were Microcastle gems “Never Stops” and “Nothing Ever Happened,” Rainwater Cassette Exchange EP tune “Rainwater Cassette Exchange” and, of course, “Fluorescent Grey” from their EP of the same name. It was enjoyable to see the crowd react positively to the band throughout and me and my pals had a fun time ourselves.

Chris: Of course, one of the most mesmerizing bands out there today. I really dug the quiet, mellow nature of their performance and how at any moment a violent jolt of noise could send your head spinning into ambient Heaven. With Deer, there is never a dull moment and so it always feels like the set is shorter than it seems. They played for a good hour and they played a fairly long time before as an opening act, yet at both shows, it felt rushed… well because it was! Not by the band, but time constraints for stupid events that get in the way of my concerts! But, seriously, with most bands like Deerhunter, I would get bored real soon, but these guys keep you amazed and entertained the whole time. My favorite was definitely “Fluorescent Grey.” Overall, I thought it was great, but I feel like I have yet to see that phenominal Deerhunter show that I will one day tell someone else’s grand kids about until I am informed by a copper that I am causing a disturbance and have to be removed from the Little League game. I can’t wait to see them in October, until then, I will have to wait PATIENTLY PATIENTLY…

Set list: From though I could have sworn they played “Revival” and others.

Hazel St.
Never Stops
Rainwater Cassette Exchange
Wash Off
Fluorescent Grey
Nothing Ever Happened

Grade: A/A-

Concert Review: Kurt Vile, Real Estate, Sore Eros @ Harper’s Ferry (7/23/10)

Technically Difficult

Bands: Kurt Vile/Real Estate/Sore Eros
Date:  Friday, July 23, 2010

Act OneSore Eros – Chris likened them to Deerhunter. They fall in that sort of experimental ambient rock category that Vile and, to a more considerable degree, Here We Go Magic, fall into. The lead singer and guitarist was really using effects to his advantage to derange his vocals and guitar. I think he also made use of looping, but it was tough to tell. His vocals were brief and incomprehensible. The noises that did come out of the amps were relaxed. There were moments of rocking out — and these were my favorite moments — but for the most part Sore Eros’ set was bigger-than-thou stand and stare kind of fare.

Act TwoReal Estate – These guys were pretty much what I expected. I was pleasantly surprised by the lead guitar parts (my favorite) as they were loud and precise. Sure, there was a moment of technical difficulty at the end of their set, but the songs that preceded this disturbance were entertaining. There were a few people dancing and that was understandable with this form of surf rock. I can understand the “they were boring” arguments, but as a fan of Real Estate’s “hit” songs –“Beach Comber,” “Fake Blues,” “Atlantic City,” and “Basement” — I can tell you I had a great experience during those.

Act ThreeKurt Vile – Kurt was a disappointment. My expectations totally differed from what actually happened. I expected a mostly acoustic slow set with a few electric guitar ditties thrown in the mix. What actually happened was an array of hard rocking vocally incomprehensible so-so tunes. I couldn’t hear the man except on maybe one or two songs. The lead guitarist was playing what seemed to be the same reverb drenched notes over and over on every single song. There were individual components of individual songs that were decent, but for the most part it was a disappointing noise jam. Get rid of the Violators and just have Kurt up there or something.

Grade: C+

EP Review: Square Shells [2010]

Artist: Kurt Vile
Release: 5/2010
Label: Matador Records

1. “Ocean City” – A-
2. “Invisibility: Non-Existent” – B
3. “Losing Momentum” – C+
4. “I Wanted Everything” – B+
5. “I Know I Got Religion” – B+
6. “The Finder” – C+
7. “Hey, Now I’m Movin” – B+

Comments: Back when I first heard of Kurt Vile in March 2009, he was a relative nobody. He had released a solo record entitled Constant Hitmaker in 2008, but that hardly got any attention until its year later reissue. Vile and his group The War on Drugs had also just put a record called Wagonwheel Blues on Secretly Canadian. Some songs on that record like “Arms Like Boulders,” “A Needle in the Eye…,” and “Taking The Farm,” really won me over and convinced me to go see the band perform at TT The Bears. They played a short, but enjoyable set featuring those songs. All ten of us in the venue (that actually paid attention) seemed to have had a decent enough time. Fast forward to…right now. Vile is signed to Matador Records, is still touring a shitload both solo (with his back-up band The Violators) and as the lead guitarist of The War on Drugs, and put out a fairly well received Matador LP Childish Prodigy later in 2009. Well, Vile is not slowing down. There’s this seven song EP that has just been released for free digitally. And, if Matador isn’t lying, another LP is due out soon enough. You, at this point, may be asking yourself if it is worth downloading the 50.5 MB MP3 folder. It’s only 50.5 MB so you might as well just give it a try anyway. The simple acoustic “Ocean City” ain’t nothing spectacular, but captivates the spirit for a little while. The dude strums heavy, by the way. Instrumental from Vile on “Losing Momentum”??? He’s too young for that. Even though it is a chill tune. Haunting vocals and an excellent rhythm section make up “I Wanted Everything.” If you are a sucker for acoustic rock that is filled with heartfelt emotion and passion then you will enjoy this. If you are someone like me that finds value in this kind of music, but isn’t easily convinced of its beauty, this may only come across as a decent/good record. There’s a slew of similar artists that excel at this craft, perhaps leaps and bounds better than Vile (perhaps not) so it really is a matter of opinion. I guess it is more apropos to mention that for this record than others — minus the instrumentals.

Grade: B (84)