In a way, I am surprised that this collaboration did not happen sooner. If you look in retrospect both Kurt Vile and Courtney Barnett share quite a few musical traits. Both can be wordy, have roots in 90’s alternative music, have distinctive voices, a laid back attitude and both know how to rock out.
Lotta Sea Lice is exactly what you’d expect from a collaboration such as this. Barnett will sing a word stuffed verse then Vile takes over and sings his part and provides background noises. Sometimes they sing in tandem. Musically the pair’s grungier tendencies are replaced with a more acoustic sound. However this is not a bare bones folk album, rather the music is jaunty. If you’re a fan of Courtney Barnett’s Depreston or Kurt Vile’s Wakin’ on a Pretty Day then you’ve got a basic idea what this album sounds like. This is an album for a sunny Sunday or a late night drive. Lotta Sea Lice is relaxed but has enough spark not to make the listener fall asleep.
Other than a bit of bounce Lotta Sea Lice also has charm and honesty, which is a bit rare. While listening to the album I felt that Vile and Barnett had fun recording this,especially on Continental Breakfast or the outro to Fear is like a Forest, where the duo just sing together enthusiastically.
To add to the rough and tumble feel of the album there are four covers. One is the aforementioned Fear is like a Forest, originally sung by Barnett’s partner Jen Cloher. It’s great. Then they cover each others songs. Vile attempts Barnett’s Out of the Woodwork, retitled here as Outta the Woodwork and does a good job but I prefer the guitar playing more . Barnett covers Vile’s Peeping Tomboy and she pulls it off. The last cover is Belly’s Untogether and that is done well a is a good closer.
Needless to say that the non covers are even better than the covers, Continental Breakfast is definitely the best track but the fun Blue Cheese and swaggering On Script are equally good.
Lotta Sea Lice is a solid album which makes for good listening, however it feels like a fun one off record and I feel that Barnett and Vile could offer a lot more if the collaboration was taken more seriously, but I’m not complaining. This is the kind of album I’ll listen to until Kurt Vile or Courtney Barnett release a new album and then I’ll return to it when both artists stop the promo wheel and I am waiting for new material by them.