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COURTNEY BARNETT & KURT VILE Lotta Sea Lice gets 8.5/10

Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile
Lotta Sea Lice
Milk!/Matador/Remote Control


Is it just me or does everything Courtney Barnett touch turn to gold? Sure she has her haters, but there’s also plenty of people out there with bad taste.

On what is effectively a follow up to the world beating, Grammy nominated debut album for this quirky, Melbourne indie artist, with Lotta Sea Lice Barnett hits it out of the park again. What started as Kurt Vile suggesting they do a track together quickly expanded to an EP, and then an album. Because… gold dust.

But the origins of this album go back further than Barnett being asked to guest on one of Vile’s tracks. The pair first met when a young act on the Melbourne scene circa 2013 scored a support slot on one of Vile’s tours. Making the most of the opportunity in the way any precocious upstart should, she gave him a CD. Now she’s made an album with one of her heroes. Gold, I tell you.

What’s remarkable about Lotta Sea Lice is it isn’t just two of your favourites making an album together Watch the Throne-style. Barnett and Vile gel; their voices intertwine and they bounce off one another with ease. The music they make retains the slacker sound signature to each, making the songs sound deceptively simple. But duet albums rarely find artists trading lines within a verse and literally conversing like this. Indeed, Lotta Sea Lice exists in its own space as far as collaboration albums go.

Part of the reason it works so well is that Vile has toned down the reverb on his voice and is enunciating more than ever. Where sometimes his lyrics can often be hidden under mumbles, slurs and a thick accent, here it’s apparent our Aussie alchemist had other ideas. It’s as if the ever-eloquent Barnett has, consciously or otherwise, encouraged him to lift his game so that their casual conversations can elevate these chilled tunes to the level of fascinating storytelling.

While originals such as pre-release singles Over Everything and Continental Breakfast are standouts and the best examples of the aforementioned chemistry, there’s also some well chosen covers. They treat Fear Is Like A Forest, a tune from Barnett’s girlfriend, bandmate and Milk! Records cohort Jen Cloher, like its their own. Originally found on Cloher’s Hidden Hands album (2009), it was already probably her best song, and now it’s one of Barnett and Vile’s too.

Perhaps the masterstroke in these days of shortened attention spans is including a cover of one their own songs each. Vile’s sprawling treatment of Outta the Woodwork and Barnett’s restrained, perfect take on Peepin’ Tom later ensures that from the first listen even the deep cuts have a warm familiarity.

It’s a perfectly balanced nine-song collection that doesn’t outstay it’s welcome and plays to each act’s strengths while also sounding fresh. If you’re after a record that doesn’t stray too far from what you already love, but will be a uniquely individual¬†LP in your collection, look no further.

And if you’re partial to the occasional wager, put your money on Courtney Barnett. She’s a safe bet.


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