A match made in heaven: Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile amaze with ‘Lotta Sea Lice’

25 October 2017

A match made in heaven: Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile amaze with ‘Lotta Sea Lice’

Photo credit: Unknown (Bandcamp)

When I heard whispers that Aussie sweetheart Courtney Barnett was in the States working with alternative rocker Kurt Vile, I instantly knew that this pairing was a match made in heaven. I can’t believe I hadn’t seen these two as potential collaborators before!

Released on 13 October, Lotta Sea Lice was a very long time coming for me, even though it was released just months after the two artists announced they were working together. I couldn’t wait! And I must say, I wasn’t disappointed.

Both Courtney and Kurt are well-established as individual artists. Their killer track records made the collaboration so exciting and, after listening to the album in awe, I can now confirm I have fallen in love with with this amazing duo.

Courtney Barnett, originally from Melbourne, has released several EPs including I’ve Got a Friend Called Emily Ferris, How to Carve a Carrot into a Rose and Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit. Anyone familiar with Courtney’s music knows she is a storyteller. When I listen to her, I feel as if I’m sitting with beside her as she paints a new world, a real world that still makes sense. Courtney has gained significant individual global success — particularly in the US — so it was only natural her teaming up with Kurt has been so widely appreciated.

Kurt Vile has always had a passion for music and writing songs since he was very young. Hailing from Lansdowne, Pennsylvania, Kurt has had success playing in bands as well as an individual artist. His albums Wakin on a Pretty Daze and Smoke Ring for My Halo are personal standouts.

Kurt’s sound reminds me of a modern take on the Velvet Underground’s “Pale Blue Eyes” days. I think it’s the instrumentation that sparks the familiarity for me. But the distinctive voices of Kurt and Courtney make them difficult, if not impossible, to compare to anyone. Kurt’s rustic folk sound and voice perfectly compliments and accentuates Courtney’s sweet, but strong and powerful, nature.

My personal favourites

“Over Everything” is the opening song on the album, and was the first-released single teasing fans for what was to come. Shared verse by verse between the duo, it is upbeat and light, and just makes my heart sing. Courtney’s soft voice accompanied by Kurt’s lingering twang, backed by the solid strumming of guitars makes their world come to life. It gives a warm feeling of blissful nostalgia.

“Fear Is Like a Forest” is not as upbeat as “Over Everything”: heavier guitars and punchier drums make this song more rocky. Courtney takes the lead vocals in this song, while Kurt takes on more of an accompaniment role. It is interesting to note that this song is a Jen Cloher cover, another fantastic artist (give her a listen!) and long term partner of Courtney. This song featured on Cloher’s Hidden Hands album.

Kurt takes over lead vocals in “Blue Cheese”, with Courtney giving a solid backing. The lyrics speak of a dream girl and reminisce about old times. Harmonica, whistling and bells give this song a beautiful hazy sound. It’s as if you’re in the American South on a train going nowhere with the sun pouring in through the window as you daydream.

Lotta Sea Lice certainly did not disappoint. I had high expectations for the album, as I deeply admire and appreciate the collaborators. I would recommend giving it a listen, particularly if blends of rock, folk and Indie music are your cup of tea.

Who am I kidding? I’d recommend it to anyone willing to listen!

Courtney and Kurt are currently touring the US together. Here’s hoping we Aussies will be graced by the duo!