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

By Emily DiAlbert, Contributor
[Matador, 2017]
Rating: 7.5/10

Key Tracks: “Over Everything”, “Continental Breakfast”, “Untogether”

Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile are rock’s version of “The Losers Club” from Stephen King’s It. The two are oddball standouts in the industry that most listeners can’t help but love. The two are an unlikely pair, each having very separate styles from the other. Barnett is an Australian garage-rocker that creates hits using her resonant, unique voice. Vile, on the other hand, has a far-more country-rock sound. You would think the combination of the two styles would be a horrific failure, but Lotta Sea Lice proved that very wrong. The LP delivers a messy, bluesy, country, alternative-rocky love-child of two completely different musicians and friends.

“Over Everything” was the first single off Lotta Sea Lice. The track explores Barnett and Vile’s building friendship by focusing on how the two differ in creating music. It’s a back-and-forth dialogue with Vile discussing his ideas in the first verse, then Barnett in the second, et cetera. As the two discover their similarities, one begins harmonizing along with the other in their separate verses, eventually finishing the lyrics in unison. The two have a chemistry in the song that’s inconceivable, showing that opposites really do attract. The tune is a light-hearted, acoustic combination of two different styles, highlighting Barnett’s sing-song voice and channeling Vile’s inner Johnny Cash.

“Continental Breakfast” is another airy-tuned acoustic track, this time delving into the hardships of the duo’s long-distance friendships. “I cherish my intercontinental friendships / We talk it over continental breakfast,” Barnett sings about meeting with Vile. The two once again immaculately harmonize throughout the track. They create dazzling, soothing melodies and an easy-listening song about friendship and love.

Other tracks on the record are covers of Barnett’s songs (“Outta The Woodwork”), Vile’s songs (Peepin’ Tom) and songs by other artists including Barnett’s wife, Jen Cloher. Barnett and Vile put their own spin on each of the tracks, especially with their cover of “Untogether” by Belly, giving it a darker, much more soulful air. Additionally, the way Barnett and Vile harmonize in “Untogether” is unprecedented (sorry, Belly). Barnett’s blushing voice combined with Vile’s rich, deep tone, creates a moving, beautiful end to the album.

Overall, Lotta Sea Lice surpassed all expectations—masterfully combining two utterly distinct styles of music into a gifted record. The album is great, but it leaves you wanting so much more. Hopefully Barnett and Vile round two gives listeners more original songs. While the covers are great, the duo have too much chemistry to not write more stuff together. That being said, while anxiously awaiting another album full of original tracks, listeners will definitely still be entertained with the colorful songs on Lotta Sea Lice.

Listen here:

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