Album Review: Lotta Sea Lice – Courtney Barnett & Kurt Vile

By: Courtney Barnett & Kurt Vile

On Oct. 13, 2017, the musical forces of Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile joined together for their collaborative album release “Lotta Sea Lice.”

The album was first ushered in by the lead single “Over Everything,” which also was the first song written for the album. On their website, Vile writes that he started writing this song with Barnett in mind, hoping that she would work on it together with him one day. The album, which had been a year in the making, began as two friends writing and recording with one another whenever their touring would bring them near each other and time would allow.

Kurt Vile first began his musical career as the co-founder and lead guitarist for the alternative rock band The War on Drugs, before amicably leaving the band to pursue his solo career. He has now released six solo albums, and tours with Kurt Vile & The Violators.

Courtney Barnett is an Australian singer, whose debut studio album “Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit” was released in 2015 to critical acclaim. Her lyrics are typically witty, dry, intellectual and funny.

As a preface to this album review, I feel it’s necessary to throw in a disclaimer: I’m a big fan of both of these acts as solo entities. I first heard Vile’s 2015 album “b’lieve i’m goin down…,” and fell in love with his music, working my way backwards through his discography. I love his peculiar lyrics, guitar instrumentals and indie-folk sound. I still find myself listening to 2013’s “Walkin on a Pretty Daze” and 2009’s “God Is Saying This To You…” on a regular basis. Furthermore, I’ve got a huge appreciation for Barnett and her music, and even saw her live last summer at Mountain Jam music festival in Hunter, NY.

This being said, I’m a pretty honest music listener and if I didn’t like the album, I’d say so. However, that just wasn’t the case here. Over the course of the 44-minute-, nine-song-album, the two musicians show off their talented guitar skills and apt ability to write intriguing and unconventional lyrics.

Each song seems to utilize a different approach to the concept of a joint album. At times they take turns alternating verses and at other times they sang together in harmony. I was impressed with how well their voices worked together, with Barnett’s sweet and beautiful voice blending well with Vile’s deep and twangy voice.

“Outta the Woodwork,” from Barnett’s 2013 release “How to Carve a Carrot Into a Rose” and “Peepin’ Tom” from Vile’s 2011 release “Smoke Ring for My Halo,” both made new appearances on this album, this time as duets between the two artists. On another track, Barnett and Vile put their own spin on a cover of “Fear Is Like A Forest,” originally by another Australian musician, Jen Cloher.On one track, Barnett and Vile put their own spin on a cover of “Fear Is Like A Forest,” originally by another australian musician, Jen Cloher.

The cover of “Outta the Woodwork” holds some significance to the two of them, as it was the first song from the first album that Vile ever heard of Barnett’s. On their site, Vile writes, “I love how sort of slow and swaying it is, pretty but dark with disorienting lyrics.”

On my favorite track, “Continental Breakfast,” the two sing of their own friendship and experiences writing in places around the world. In just one example of some of the many interesting lyrics from this record, the two sing: “I walk like a bruised ego along shorefront property un-owned to me/ But I’m feelin’ inferior on the interior don’t ya see/ Guarded and sentimental (and after all, it’s just a rental).” I especially liked how, when harmonizing, the two weren’t always perfectly in sync. On top of it being catchy and alluring, the song feels honest and raw.

The album gave the two an equal opportunity to show off their separate skills as accomplished musicians, and manages to preserve what it is that makes Vile and Barnett so unique as artists. At the same time, though, the album gives them the platform to show off their ability to feed off of each other and merge their musical abilities, never overshadowing or overpowering one another.

In hearing about the duo’s personal reflections about making this album, it seems that they had a really great time. They both clearly have a lot of respect for one another as musicians, and I think that does nothing but elevate the album. Unlike Cobain and Love, this Kurt and Courtney are a good fit for one another.

Lotta Sea Lice” is a very guitar driven record and can be mellow at times, so I’d mainly recommend it to fans of indie music. Its lyrics span the concepts of creativity, boredom, routine and the mundane. At some points, it gets quirky, especially in track seven, “Blue Cheese,” but never feels absurd or out of touch. It’s their ability to be goofy yet always sincere that I find really appealing. Lyrically, it really feels like a peek in on the friendship of two really interesting people, and I think it get’s better with every listen.

The duo are currently embarked on a tour, and will be visiting Boston on Saturday Nov. 4 at the Orpheum Theater.

Overall, it’s a well written album that feels perfect for this time of year, and especially the weather as of late. You can listen to it in the car, or at the beach, or around a fire pit with your friends at night.

Recommended Songs by artist: Kurt Vile- “Dust Bunnies,” “Beach On The Moon (Recycled Lyrics),” and “Pretty Pimpin”  // Courtney Barnett- “Avant Gardener” and “Pedestrian at Best”

For more, visit: www.courtneybarnettandkurtvile.com