On their first collaborative album Lotta Sea Lice, Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile string together some of the most heart-warming tracks of their careers. Sounding comfy as you like, the pair feel like a natural duo with a perfect mutual understanding.
It’s been over a year since we heard music from either Kurt or Courtney with both their previous solo albums receiving notable praise. Particularly Courntey’s debut album Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit which really kick-started her career and made her stand out for her quirky lyrical style mixed with catchy guitar work. This so happens to naturally suit Kurt’s style of song writing as well, therefore when the duo announced that they were releasing a collaborative LP the anticipation from fans of both artists was high.
Going straight into the album, Lotta Sea Lice kicks off with the lead single ‘Over Everything’. A very easy going and endearing track which demonstrated immediately the natural chemistry between the two artists. Neither Courtney or Kurt have switched up their styles to match the other, they simply work the way they usually do, interchanging verses that lap over each other in perfect compatibility. Not only this, the track works exceedingly well as a single due to its progressive structure that grows on you the more times you listen to it. In context to the album it also sets the tone very well with it transitioning into the slower and cosy ‘Let It Go’ with the message of the song as clear as the title, the slow melody in conjunction with this works as a sort of mantra or remedy for those who are prone to overthinking.
Moreover, for better or worse the album only actually consists of 6 original tracks, with 3 of them being covers of previously recorded songs. The track ‘Fear Is Like a Forest’ is a personal track for Courtney as it’s a cover of her partners own track, which actually comes off neatly for its not a particularly well-known song therefore it feels like new material. However, as you would expect Courtney takes the lead with Kurt sitting in the background. Whilst this song along with every song on the album fits the overall aesthetic, it does have the potential to frustrate listeners who wanted a full-length project with 10 or more newly written tracks along the lines of ‘Over Everything’. With this being said its surprising to say that the weakest track is in fact a newly written song ‘On Script’. With Kurt nowhere to be seen on the track, Courtney’s slow delivery along with the dragged out melody just misses out on being described as mellow and unfortunately falls into the boring category.
When the two team up for a quirky upbeat tune however, it really works out to be something quite special. ‘Continental Breakfast’ the second single for the album is another perfect example of this as it sounds exactly how you would expect two really good friends making a song together would sound. The straight forward delivery of lyrics about embracing the little things in life like friendships and family along with possibly the most endearing music video of the year makes this track stand out. It especially works well being placed as the centre piece of the album as it contributes to the flow effectively and keeps the listener engaged and hopeful for more tracks like this one. Aside from the singles, the closest track to this feeling is most definitely ‘Blue Cheese’, an undeniably fun track guaranteed to pick you up after the slow burner ‘On Script’ that preceded it. As if it hasn’t been emphasised enough already, Courtney and Kurt make ‘Blue Cheese’ sound effortless and playful in the best possible way. When two people creatively click its more than obvious to hear and this is definitely the case across Lotta Sea Lice.
Overall, Lotta Sea Lice is somewhat of a mixed bag that definitely warranted a collaborative album, however doesn’t have enough stellar moments that the two are undoubtedly capable of.