Review: Kurt Vile & Courtney Barnett, ‘Lotta Sea Lice’

As we roll into the colder months here in the Midwest, I’m super grateful for the warm music I can blast from my turntable all winter. It keeps the apartment nice and cozy and my spirits high. This year brought me an excellent album for late-night winter jams in Lotta Sea Lice, the debut collaboration album between Kurt Vile and Australian artist Courtney Barnett; an easygoing, thoughtful (but not too much so), day trip of an album, it shines with a relaxed clarity that hits the body in a very calming way.

First of all, lead single “Over Everything” has to be one of the catchiest songs I’ve ever heard. Just writing this has it stuck in my head. It also doesn’t hurt that Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile are basically the same person; their voices complement each other perfectly, and their music is so mellow underneath their respective drawls.

If you’re familiar at all with the stylings of Kurt Vile, you won’t be disappointed here, that’s for sure. His alt-country-tinged psychedelic folk swirls throughout the record, only enhanced by Courtney Barnett’s contributions. Songs like the uplifting and enveloping “On Script” and the villainous “Outta the Woodwork” are brilliant examples of the way Kurt and Courtney effortlessly melded their styles and brought out the best in each other, particularly the way they harmonize. Oh, and if you skip over the supremely cool “Fear is like a Forest”, you are doing yourself a tremendous disservice.

As always, I recommend listening to the album straight through in one sitting, although this one is actually an exception; while the songs can be engrossing and impossible to get out of your head, each one could be a perfect starting point. Each songs has a way of sounding like a sunny afternoon drive while simultaneously being the soundtrack of a night spent curled up by the fire with a book.

Kurt Vile and Courtney Barnett have put together a super-fun, meditative, relaxing album that’s equally good to get lost in or to leave on while you’re doing the dishes. Very seldom is a record just as good in so many settings. The combination of laid-back folk, bright psychedelia, and too-cool-for-school vocals makes the whole album a very enjoyable listen. In addition, I was lucky enough to catch Kurt and Courtney at Desert Daze on the day the album was released, and in a live setting the music is even better. I hope this album brings you the same joy it brings me as the cold fingers of winter creep over the country. Happy listening!

Lotta Sea Lice Rating: 8 out of 10

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