March Release Party


Published: March 30, 2011

Kurt Vile  “Smoke Ring For My Halo” released March 8

Philadelphia folk-rock veteran Kurt Vile is like the quiet kid in high school no one ever heard a word from, who rocks the hell out of everyone at the end-of-the-year talent show. Vile’s fourth full-length LP, “Smoke Ring for My Halo,” demonstrates his ability to surprise.

Vile comes out from behind the cover of his hippie haircut and releases some of the cleanest, most organic music heard this year. “Smoke Ring” is a long cry from Vile’s earlier lo-fi recordings in which his lyrics were seldom heard. Vile demonstrates superb acoustic and electric guitar composition on each song, particularly “Runner Ups” and “Jesus Fever.”

And the Violators, Vile’s backing group in past albums, join him once again. The setup of four guitarists and no bassist on the album is special and done right; the guitars chime and build off each other, creating layer upon layer of thick, reverb-laden tracks that appropriately couple Vile’s vocals.

Vile is our generation’s Tom Petty: an otherwise reserved man who lets his love of Americana, his talent as a songwriter and his fan base do the talking for him. Vile is not one for the limelight and he’s happy that way. If his lyrics happen to sound melancholy and isolated, don’t fret—Vile is far from alone on this album.

The Dodos “No Colors” released March 15

The Dodos’ second album, “Visiter,” was easily one of the best albums of 2008, with the San Francisco band setting down a yellow brick road to greater future exposure and honing a reputation for a live show that had its performers playing to the point of near exhaustion.

Their fourth full-length album, “No Color,” presents the same thumping bass and frantic guitar-picking that the Dodos are known for, yet there are some songs that miss the mark. There is nothing overly special on this album; the majority of the songs sound like exact imitations of one another with the same tempo seemingly present in every song, which grows dull fast.

But, not all hope is lost. Album opener “Black Night” grabs the listener not with the music, but with the hook of singer Meric Long’s voice. “Going Under,” my favorite song on the album, features a beautiful chorus with a lullaby-like harmony. Neko Case makes a vocal cameo, adding a nice touch of her enforcing delivery, which is rarely hard on the ears.

Ultimately, this is not necessarily an album to skip; it has its jewels and its odd, misshapen rocks—mostly rocks. “No Color” plays upon a rainbow effect—although it’s anticipated to look pretty, in actuality it’s all black and white.

Bibio “Mind Bokeh” released March 29

When I listen to new albums, I usually turn the volume up really loud to get a better feel for the dynamics of a record. Don’t do that with this one. “Mind Bokeh,” the sixth full-length album from English multi-instrumentalist/producer Stephen Wilkinson, aka Bibio, proves to be a major disappointment.

His breakthrough album, 2009’s “Ambivalence Avenue,” turned heads with his take on ’70s-styled electronic pop mixed with ’60s-infused folk guitar. It was something different, bright and a pleasure to listen to.

“Bokeh,” which is the Japanese word to describe the deliberate, out-of-focus background in a photograph, describes this album best, but not in any constructive terms. The direction that “Mind Bokeh” seems to be venturing into is of a dark nature—a lot darker than “Ambivalence Avenue.”

Wilkinson pushes the boundries of his music too far; it soon starts to sound as if he was aiming to make the album sound up to par for the mainstream music scene, transforming his music into something  it’s not. The songs on “Mind Bokeh” sound hazy and way too overdone; the production aims too high. Wilkinson still stays true to the sound he is known for, but sparingly trusts it enough to let it stand alone.