Broken down to his base elements, Kurt Vile sounds a lot like Petty, or Dylan, or Springsteen. But on Smoke Ring for My Halo, it’s also easy to hear what sets him apart. Like Vile’s back catalogue, Smoke Ring plays up the Americana vibe — twangy guitars, brushed drums, and lyrical references to dirt, dust, and Marlboro Reds abound — yet the tones, be they vocal or instrumental, are at the heart of this record’s most evocative moments. On “Runner Ups,” an insistent shaker plays off Vile’s echoed and despondent cries, creating a sense of palpable lonesomeness that’s only upheld by the chorus (“My best friend’s long gone, but I got runner ups”). It’s precisely this ability to convey moods that’s landed Vile in critics’ good graces over the years. And Smoke Ring insists it’s rightfully so. Kurt Vile plays the Santa Barbara Bowl on Sunday, September 25. Call (805) 962-7411 or visit for tickets.


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