• Mike Peters

Courtney Barnett & Kurt Vile: Lotta Sea Lice Review

Two of the finest song writers of recent times, Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile step away from their solo careers to exchange melody and harmony in this raw, unadulterated account of each’s musical life. The album combines the pair’s seeming love of imprudent, lackadaisical recordings, creating an interference free soundscape on which the two could harmonise. While the album came about as a side project with no set goal of becoming full length, the record ‘came together that way ‘cause the vibe was so strong with everyone.’ The likes of Mick Harvey, Dirty Three and Stella from Warpaint were roped in to help make ‘Lotta Sea Lice’ a mature and intellectual record, examining the writer’s lives with clarity.

The opening track ‘Over Everything’ introduces the obvious chemistry between Barnett and Vile as they form minimal harmonies and instead remain individual throughout much of the track. They take turns singing verses which tell of contentment in solitude and of writing songs before the two share the final verse, a repeat of the first. The song was written by Kurt with Courtney in mind writing in a blog post, ‘I started writing a tune that I hoped she’d do with me one day.’ Swelling continuously the first track of nine sets the tone for an excitingly mellow album.

My personal favourite track on the album is ‘Outa the Woodwork.’ A Cover of a Barnett original, reimagined with Kurt’s grinding guitar tones and a more intimate vocal track, this song continues the theme of ‘Lotta Sea Lice’ of mutual respect for each other’s work. The lyrics, unchanged from the original, describe the way in which some people are quick to judge others when they reach too high and how, in an effort to avoid stumbling, many will not aim as high as their potential.

This is followed by the second of the two singles released ‘Continental Breakfast.’ Here, the album really hits its stride. Over delicate fingerpicking on an acoustic guitar, Courtney and Kurt form charming harmonies. This unity is quite enthralling and speaks to a sense in all of us of love for those closest to us. The video produced for the track is further endearing, an intimate view into Vile’s and Barnett’s domestic lives, and, though you probably don’t know the family members shown in the video, the sense of spending valuable time with friends and family is very relatable.

The album closes with a homage to Belly, 90’s heroes in the cult of alternative rock. ‘Untogether’ comes from Belly’s 1993 debut album ‘Star’ and serves to close the album in the melodic, soothing timbre that settles listeners into a comfortable conclusion.

‘Lotta Sea Lice’ is an enthralling collection of music which expresses respect and gratitude for the work of each of its contributing artists. Often, when two individual rock musicians collaborate it can result in a bit of a mess but in this case a really strong album has been produced and I for one hope for further collaboration in the future between Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile.


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