It's weird to write about a guy who operates this close to the classic singer-songwriter template and not even consider the lyrics. The acoustic-strumming, banjo-picking Kurt Vile chooses fine words, and he certainly puts them in a specific order, but none of them have much to do with why his music works. Much of Smoke Ring for My Halo sounds like early Simon & Garfunkel with a concussion, but Vile's blurry psychedelic folk rock is more interested in atmosphere than in messages or wordplay. It's not quite ambient music for lo-fi vets, but neither does it try to penetrate Vile's trademark haze. His fourth LP in as many years offers up 11 more sluggish drones that are as transfixing as they are indistinct, and perfect for anybody who digs new-fangled folksy biz but can't handle beard 'n' banjo clown shows like the Mumford bros. Vile's voice, a high whine somewhere between Lou Reed and J Mascis (his current touring partner), just adds to the smoky backdrop. He's mastered the tuneful shrug, the song that sounds unfinished and tossed off but sticks fast to your brain and keeps revealing a depth you hadn't noticed.
KURT VILE & THE VIOLATORS + J MASCIS | Brighton Music Hall, 158 Brighton Ave, Allston | March 26 @ 8 pm | 18+ | $15 | 617.779.0140