‘Lotta Sea Lice’ is fine but forgettable

The artists will give $1 from every ticket sale for their tour to the American Civil Liberties Union. (Courtesy of Matador Records)

Patrick Connell
Connector Staff

Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile have recently teamed up to create a collaborative album called “Lotta Sea Lice.” If someone has listened to either artist, then there might be an assumption as to what this album might sound like.

Courtney Barnett comes from Melbourne, Australia, which can clearly be heard in her voice. In the past, she has been prone to composing songs with guitar melodies, having many varying parts and adding in the vocals with witty, pun-filled lyrics. Kurt Vile is a Philadelphia-based musician, formerly part of The War on Drugs as lead guitarist, with his own distinctive voice, especially noticeable with his odd inflections on words that have seemingly straightforward pronunciations.

The reason why this album was created in the first place is because Vile wrote the lead single and opening track “Over Everything” with Barnett’s voice in mind, and then after having a jam session together, they decided to go on a tour and write an album as well. With just listening to this track, the sense of the rest of album is given: a mellow, folksy, blues rock album layered with winding guitar lines with a conversation between the two artists sung over them.

For instance, “Over Everything” just has the two of them talking about how they write music. It has a nice set of jazzy chords taking the listener through the verses, and then goes through an extended outro laden with guitar solos.

The next song, “Let It Go,” might have the catchiest melody to it. There are two guitars to it: the one playing the elongated, higher notes in the foreground, and the one playing the bass-like notes to complement in the background. However, part of why this may be so catchy is that it is played for two and a half minutes straight, which brings to light an issue this album has: many of the songs do not have great variance to their structure, so they become somewhat repetitive.

“Fear is Like a Forest” and “Outta the Woodwork” are both the heaviest songs on the album in terms of sound. Either song could be sung by Neil Young & Crazy Horse during their time of hard blues rock, and it would not seem out of place. These are also the best structured songs on the album. After listening to them enough, the chorus parts are nigh impossible to not sing along with, especially in “Outta the Woodwork.”

“Continental Breakfast” is an odd song in its subject matter. Vile and Barnett just sing about how they are from different continents and, during the making of this album, they would sit and eat breakfast together. The guitar here is a mix of acoustic (softly, quickly finger picked) to establish where the melody is going, and then a twangy electric to finish off where it is headed. Despite being one of the more lackluster songs here, the bridge section is where the sentimentality really picks up, but it ends too quickly and just repeats a previous verse.

“Peepin’ Tom” was a song Vile originally preformed as part his solo work (titled “Peeping Tomboy”), but here it has been reworked to just Barnett and her acoustic guitar. She sings about diametrically opposed desires that people often find themselves with, and combined with the bittersweet theme the guitar presents and the stripped-down production, “Peepin’ Tom” is a quite moving song.

Overall, “Lotta Sea Lice” is a pleasant album to listen to. It is probably best heard in a setting of relaxation, such as being around a campfire or watching a sunset on a porch. Nevertheless, it does not have as great critical value, which is noticeable on repeated listens. They will be preforming at the Orpheum Theater in Boston on Saturday, Nov. 4.

Final Grade: B-

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