Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile - Lotta Sea Lice

Story posted October 22, 2017 in Arts & Entertainment, CommRadio by Jenna Minnig

The seemingly perfect pairing of Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile creates an enticing mixture of strong vocals and mellow guitar riffs with bold yet beautiful lyrics on their first collaborative record Lotta Sea Lice.

Vile, a native of Philadelphia, was inspired to write with the Australian singer/songwriter Barnett in 2015. The duo had planned to release a short EP after a brief studio session in 2016. However, after a second meeting in 2017, they decided to spend more time together on their musical creation.

With only nine tracks, Lotta Sea Lice is short and sweet, yet it leaves listeners craving more. The first and most popular single on the album, “Over Everything,” is an accurate preview to the tone which is carried during the rest of the record. The smooth guitar strum followed by rich vocals from Vile and Barnett give the song a charm factor that is highly noticeable on other tracks. The song is enhanced even further when the two begin singing together, an obvious tool used throughout the record. Vile’s deep voice with Barnett’s soft harmonies make the duo a quintessential collaboration in the indie music world.

By no means do Barnett and Vile push any boundaries within the indie/folk music genre, but they make it unique and personal with their conversational lyrics. “Continental Breakfast” is another popular track on the album that most accurately captures the back and forth lyrical swing between the two singers. The song also holds a soft and melodious ambience with help from the acoustic guitar.

Something special about the album is in its background details. Barnett and Vile were both fans of one another’s music long before they began creating Lotta Sea Lice. This admiration is featured on two songs on the record. Barnett covered Vile’s track “Peepin’ Tom” from his 2011 album Smoke Ring For My Halo. She makes the song her own with emotion and softer, yet slower vocals. Vile was also inspired by Barnett’s songs prior to working with her. He decided to cover “Outta the Woodwork,” which is a single released by Barnett in 2013. She even chimes in throughout the cover and adds harmonies to Vile’s heavy and lethargic voice.

Although the album is delightful and engaging on first listen, after a few plays the songs become mundane and repetitive. This is in part due to Vile’s failure to alter his tone and vocal range on many songs, which in turn makes many of the tracks sound similar. It is simple to conclude that this album would not have succeeded without Barnett’s passionate harmonies.

The most important aspect of this record is the sheer fact that this is Barnett and Vile’s first debut project working together and it was an overall success. Although there were no massive risks taken on this album, there did not need to be. The purpose of Lotta Sea Lice is to promote the duo’s ability to work together and collaborate on everything from lyrics, to vocals, all the way to instrumental patterns. In this sense, the album does succeed and the bar is set high for future collaborations from Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile.

Rating: 7/10


Jenna Minnig is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact her, email