Kurt Vile, ‘Smoke Ring for My Halo’ (Matador)
Kurt Vile has rock’s most believable sneer. When on his fourth album the Philly singer-songwriter confesses to being “a puppet to the man” and that his life’s been “one long running gag,” his voice slithers into every corner of defiance and resignation, earning your trust with that insistent lip-curl of brutal everydude humility. Having inhaled the obliquely fucked hauteur of the Stooges/Neil Young/ J Mascis axis, Vile frames his own more hushed musings with alternately anxious and serene guitar. But thanks to John Agnello’s warm, enveloping production, Smoke Ring for My Halo feels almost suspenseful. “Christ was born / I was there,” Vile intones, as if he’s about to confide a mystery of the universe.