Categorized | Arts & Entertainment

Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile debut collaboration

Eleanor Linafelt
A&E Editor

A collaborative album between Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile was a good concept; they’re both accomplished solo artists and talented guitarists, they have the same haircut and they even share first names with a legendary ’90s rock couple. Unfortunately, the duo’s largely underdeveloped songwriting on their Oct. 2017 album “Lotta Sea Lice” does not quite allow for the musical collaboration to live up to its potential. However, the couple of standout original songs, well done covers and the musicians’ sheer talent on their instruments do make this album worth giving a listen to.

“Lotta Sea Lice” starts out on a lively note with one of the better originals, “Over Everything,” on which Barnett and Vile trade off singing each line. The song’s lyrics, as well as those on the rest of the album, are honest and uncomplicated, reveling in the poetic potential of the typically mundane aspects of life. At just over six minutes, “Over Everything” is one of the longer songs on the album, but unlike the others, its length is warranted, as much of it is made up of the instrumentally intricate outro in which both Barnett and Vile display their impressive skills on guitar.

“Continental Breakfast” is another strong song, with touching lines like, “I cherish my intercontinental friendships/We talk it over continental breakfast,” supported by a pretty melody and twangy, upbeat guitar riffs. The song is also an endearing nod toward the songwriters’ own intercontinental friendship, as Barnett hails from Melbourne, Australia and Vile from Philadelphia.

The nine songs on the album are all at least four minutes long and include multiple rambling tracks that lack the structure and catchy melodies that truly good rock songs demand. “Let It Go,” “On Script” and “Peepin Tom” are three slow, trudging songs that particularly fall victim to the weak songwriting. These songs feel like filler songs on the album and are easy to skip in order to listen to the more fully-developed ones.

Though Barnett and Vile’s songwriting at times lacks interesting melodies, the album’s sound, primarily developed through the harmonizing, complicated guitar parts, is robust and distinctive. This is particularly proven through the two covers on the album: “Fear Is Like A Forest,” a song originally by Barnett’s wife Jen Cloher, and “Untogether” by the 1990s band Belly. The crunchy, dark tone of the guitars on the Cloher cover complements the song’s lyrical content well. On “Untogether,” the final track, Barnett and Vile sing the entirety of the thoughtful song together, making it a fitting end to their collaborative effort.

Though previous fans of Barnett and Vile may be disappointed by the songwriting on “Lotta Sea Lice” in comparison to the musicians’ respective solo projects, the album has redeeming qualities that warrant it a listen. Through the playful lyrics, well done covers and interesting guitar parts, Barnett and Vile present listeners with an endearing, if somewhat underdeveloped, product of an intercontinental friendship between two talented musicians.

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