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#7: Kurt Vile-"Runner Ups"

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Let's get back to the countdown of songs that manage to be MORE inappropriate for an Angels 7th inning stretch than the current self-aware disaster, The Foundations' "Build Me Up Buttercup". We're stuck with that song for the foreseeable future, but this countdown is here to remind you that it could always be worse.

Today's entry is of the more subdued, breezy variety, but with a subtext of despondence and alone-late-at-night type self obviously NOT a good song for a 7th inning stretch. But I was also curious about the title of the album that this particular song is on, Smoke Ring For My Halo, and if it could possibly point to something more maudlin behind our favorite players and organization. After the jump: Kurt Vile-"Runner Ups".



Kurt Vile's latest album, Smoke Ring For My Halo, had been on my radar for awhile. As a gigantic fan of his last LP, Childish Prodigy, I eagerly awaited the next from this young, mop-headed Philadelphia folk-rocker. The above tune, "Runner Ups", comes about halfway through the album, and what was a melodic and whimsical record all of a sudden becomes a gigantic bummer. Kurt Vile is sad and he is tired, and he's especially tired of the banality of day to day life...even if that day to day life IS being an early 20's, hot shit singer/songwriter with the voice of a young Ian McCulloch cum Nick Drake and hair like the weird bass player dude from Dr. Hook. I'm sure it's not all bad, but you can feel the hurt on this new track, and the particular type of mental wound it's addressing is what interests me most. It's the type of song you may be listening to when you have some sort of breakthrough about your life; a catharsis or perhaps a social or filial schism. It's the type of song that, if heard by Mike Scioscia, he may stare out at from his spot at the dugout, towards the right field wall's Carl's Jr. sign, and realize that maybe he should give it all out his Angels chips, open up an Italian eatery in some small town in northern Alaska, where he'd make his own house sauce by day, read Gravity's Rainbow underneath a caribou blanket at night. If "Runner Ups" was heard by Jered Weaver, he'd drop to one knee and begin sobbing, while coming to the stark realization that if he's really going to become a famous dubstep producer, then he's got to quit baseball and just "go for it, dude." It's the type of song I'm sure Dad of Vlad was listening to when he decided he really needed to vent about his job via a Fan Post that was anything but pithy. His Jerry Maguire moment, if you will. I feel like all the fans subjected to this song at an Angels game would have some sort of clear headed moment, and we might realize that there are more important things to attend to in our own lives than Angels baseball. Basically, the last thing I want to think about in the 7th inning of a baseball game featuring my favorite team. We all feel Kurt Vile's despondence. Our best friends may be long gone, like he states his is in the song's lyrics, but he has "runner ups". Do we? Are we?

The Angels could very well end up runners up in our own division, don't forget. The balance between happiness and despair can at times be separated by as little as an inch or two difference in a pitch, or the sound made from the hammer-ons and pull-offs being strummed on a capo'd acoustic guitar. Introspection can be a tricky thing, and we have people like Kurt Vile forcing it upon us in the most beautifully and elegant of ways: via a song he wrote about being alone, finding solace in the runner ups(sic).

And then there's the whole "Smoke Ring For My Halo" thing. We like to think of the Halo(s) as a permanent feature in our lives; the constant reminder hanging over our heads, and as such our daily lives, that the rank and file aspects of our days can always be dulled and shoved to the side, if only for a few hours, while we watch baseball. Because we love baseball and we love our Halos. But a halo made out of smoke could be quickly dissipated and then we're back to square one, and that whole despondence thing again. Or perhaps Vile is saying that there's a spot in Halos Heaven for even the loneliest and crassest breed of Angels. I'm reminded of an old 60's folk song by Tim Hardin, ""Black Sheep Boy", in which he says "If you love me, let me live in peace. Please understand, that the black sheep can wear a golden fleece, or hold a winning hand." I like to think that for some of us, and our smoke ring halos, that it's like being the black sheep that can still wear the Golden Fleece. That we can be well as sinners.

It's a moving and haunting track, "Runner Ups", and I'd prefer to keep such an eldritch and lingering tune out of Anaheim Stadium and far away from the 7th inning stretch. Kurt Vile, though, is A-OK by me, and he's worth checking out. Smoke Ring For My Halo has been out for a few weeks now, and has mostly glowing reviews. While it didn't quite disappoint me, I still prefer his previous one, Childish Prodigy. I'll leave a standout track from that one, called "Monkey". It's actually a cover song, originally written by Richard Hell(of The Voidoids fame) from his time in the short lived indie rock supergroup Dim Stars(of which Thurston Moore was also a member). Kurt Vile really makes it his own, adding his lush and layered guitars over a solid appearance from his sometime-backing band The Violators...easily one of my favorite tracks from 2009(Seriously, Richard Hell's lyrics are amazingly sweet and playfully romantic, and totally kick the song into lofty company when rendered by the broken and worn down Vile).  I hope to see more good stuff from this kid, as long as it's NOT at an Angels game!