On first listen to this album, the one thing that will strike you is the undeniable feeling that this is a great way for Kurt Vile and Courtney Barnett to have a get together, chill out with one another, and earn some dollar.
Who can really judge them for that, though? Particularly when the results are so interesting and so refreshingly different from a lot of new releases. Lotta Sea Lice is a collection of re-workings, and brand new solo and collaborative songs.
Album opener Over Everything drips in charming country twangs and jangling guitars which act as a backdrop to the brilliantly unconventional voices of this newly formed duo.
It is clear the duo use this track as an introduction, or a “hey, what’s up” to the listener as we feel like we are sitting in on a jamming session between the pair. Kurt Vile, in his slow singing voice tells of how listening to tunes loudly has meant his ears have become damaged, meaning he now has to “plug ‘em up”.
Moving through the album, we come to the real gem within the 9 track release: Fear Is Like A Forest. Crisp, haunting and roaming guitars build an irresistible tension. Team this with the no-frills vocals of Barnett – given an added emotive layer by the echoing of her every word by Vile – and you have a song with a wonderfully multi-faceted texture.
In Outta The Woodwork, we see a return of the melancholic wanderings of Vile from his last album B’lieve I’m Goin’ Down which leave behind nothing but complimentary comparisons to Neil Young.
Meanwhile, On Script allows Barnett to take centre stage. This song shows us perhaps the meaning of the album, as you cannot help but notice how it toys with the sense of battle between one’s outer appearances versus their inner conflict. Groaning guitars and scatty drums produce a marvelously relaxed atmosphere.
Throughout Lotta Sea Lice, there are many emotions explored yet not fully navigated. It allows you to carve out your own meaning and develop your own emotive understanding of the tracks involved.
Vile and Barnett are two similar yet different acts that here become effortlessly intertwined, as if they have forever released material together.
Looking at the album artwork, each artist’s name appears above the head of the other. Vile wears light colours and Barnett wears darks and they sit in front of colours opposite to those on their clothing.
It is as if they are akin to Yin and Yang: separate of one another but capable and evidently at ease with one another.
The album is a lovingly created collection of songs – like an organised chaos that replicates the fleeting moments of life’s roller-coaster ride. It may, however, be in need of a meaty riff that Vile has so often provided, to give it a punchy edge.
It seems though, that this is not where Vile and Barnett were at when putting this together. They have shaped, bent and curved their sound into a piece that oozes a sense of clear identity, of rustic and “rough around the edges” dynamic.
Do not expect this album to blow your head off, instead rejoice in it’s simplistic coolness.
The albums full track listing is as follows…
01 Over Everything
02 Let It Go
03 Fear Is Like a Forest
04 Outta the Woodwork
05 Continental Breakfast
06 On Script
07 Blue Cheese
08 Peepin’ Tom