By Tommy Gerity
Every so often you’ll stumble across a couple people playing music together, making it up as they go in the bedroom, basement, street corner, garage, rooftop, or park. They’ll play songs they both know, songs only one of them knows, and songs neither of them know. They’ll let their partner take the lead and sometimes they’ll steal it right back. That’s exactly how Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile’s Lotta Sea Lice begins in “Over Everything,” with Vile singing, “I wanna dig into my guitar, bend a blues riff that hangs –” before Barnett swoops in and sings about lifting songs out of the morning news.
Much of record is an ode to songwriting, not only in its substance, but also in its form: the album features four covers, one a piece of Vile and Barnett songs and a selection of by each of a favorite tune. However, there’s good new material on here as well. “Over Everything,” the best cut, features a carefree, barbed-wire-melodied duet from the pair and rides out long enough to obtain the kind of presence that the tune speaks to. The Barnett-penned “Continental Breakfast” has the sonics of a Paradise Valley-era John Mayer but is tattooed by her knack for whatever-fits wordplay. “Blue Cheese” is the record’s nastiest, cleverest song, in which Vile makes reference to getting his rocks off in between mentions of Chinese rock ‘n’ roll, fabric softener, and reeferina.
Ultimately, Barnett and Vile break no new ground as they trample heavily through their shared pasts. If you’re someone who identifies with either of them, you got exactly what you came for: a record as rooted in downbeat loneliness, surrender, and mundanity as any of their previous releases. If you came for “Pedestrian at Best” vitriol you’ll come out empty-handed. They’re just there to enjoy making music with someone else. In some ways there’s great solace to be taken in that.
fav track: Over Everything
Listen to Lotta Sea Lice on Spotify below