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

Photo courtesy of Matador Records.

Photo courtesy of Matador Records.

Sorry, it’s not a Nirvana thing. Kurt Vile and Courtney Barnett had long held a mutual appreciation for each other’s work, but after Vile presented Barnett with an unfinished song back in 2015 the pair decided to write an album together. Vile and Barnett don’t necessarily travel in all of the same circles, so the collaboration may have sounded a bit strange to fans initially, but everything makes sense the second the needle drops.

Both artists are known far and wide for their unique voices and storytelling abilities, so hearing them together on a song almost feels like your parents reading you a new favorite book together. The personalities present in Barnett and Vile’s voices also extend into their guitar work, so listeners are treated to two different types of duets.

Many successful duets in pop music have sexual tension to thank for their thrill, but these collaborations are of the most wholesome sort. The easygoing “Continental Breakfast” plays like an ode to a tried and true friendship that only grows stronger with time. “Outta The Woodwork” is one of the most bluesy moments on “Lotta Sea Lice” and makes a strong appeal to older listeners who may come across the record unaware of Vile and Barnett’s pedigrees.

Throughout these nine songs, Barnett and Vile muster up a specific type of warmth and comfort that isn’t present on many modern records, and one that is made to be heard on vinyl. The album ends with a cover of singer-songwriter Tanya Donelly’s “Untogether;” a calm, tender, and unexpected tune to end a record that thrives on all three of those elements. “Lotta Sea Lice” would’ve been a college radio blockbuster back in the eighties or nineties, and while the format isn’t what it used to be, the same type of listeners will sooner or later discover and treasure this album.

About Aaron Rhodes

Aaron Rhodes runs Shuttlecock Music Magazine and hosts the Shuttlecock Podcast. He also writes freelance for The Pitch and Mills Record Company, books shows, takes photographs, and continuously finds new ways to bother Kansas City's favorite musicians.

View all articles by Aaron Rhodes

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