Kurt Vile: “Baby’s Arms”[audio:http://alarm-magazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/KurtVile-BabysArms.mp3|titles=Kurt Vile “Baby’s Arms”]
During the few years that he’s been putting out proper records, Philadelphia’s Kurt Vile has played equally the singer-songwriter and the free-form sonic tinkerer. He seems unwilling to force too much to happen in either capacity. He’s sincerely catchy but shy of being blatantly earnest. He’s tempted by the inviting fizzle of tape hiss, reverb, drum machines, and Casios, but can put a simple guitar part at the front when it suits him.
His new album, Smoke Ring For My Halo, is a lot more orderly than Constant Hitmaker (2008) or Childish Prodigy (2009). The frequent, fun instrumental twiddling of Hitmaker is just about entirely gone, and Prodigy‘s push toward rocking clarity continues in a mellow acoustic vein. It no longer sounds like each song was patched together in slightly different circumstances and varying qualities of tape. He achieves a new consistency on Smoke Ring and doesn’t strain himself to get there.