2017, Music

Lotta Sea Lice (2017) by Courtney Barnett, Kurt Vile

I am only familiar with Kurt Vile by reputation, and I’ve only heard a few covers by Courtney Barnett, so I really don’t know how a collaboration like this fits in either’s catalogue or career.

This is a reasonably decent set of songs from one of our era’s more prolific American songwriters (9 albums in the last 15 years and more EPs than I bothered to count) along with a rising Australian songwriter. There are also a couple of covers. Not really knowing either’s work, the songs of Vile mostly connect with me faster than Barnett’s, thought it does depend on the song. I like the Coher cover, a song I didn’t know.

The sound is pretty raw, or at least feels that way. I’m sure to what degree that comes from them just recording the songs are actually trying to get that sound. I don’t listen to either so I wasn’t familiar with either’s playing. When they jam, I appreciate that both have an edge to their sound, though neither really super impressed me. That could be the mix – the vocals are mixed way forward of the guitars – or it could be that they just jammed and saw what happened, or it could be aesthetic choices, or this is just what they sound like. Regardless, one thing I would personally want from a collaboration record like this where both songwriters solo is a little more jamming, a little more duelling. I understand that’s relatively uncool but I thought Vile in particular did this. (Again, I just know him by rep.)

There’s some Australia rock royalty on this record and I must say I don’t feel it. I’m not sure I know any of them well enough to recognize them only by the sounds they make on their instruments but I still feel like I’d like a little more aural evidence. That’s one thing I can say for the sound of the record, actually, which is a positive, which is it sounds like it was created by a single band but it was absolutely not, based on the credit. So that’s something, even though I do wish I could hear the prominent guests more (or got some clues as to where I should listen for them).

But this is certainly my type of aesthetic and I find the whole thing pleasant and diverting.


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