This is All That Glitters is Gold, a recurring piece about some of my favorite artists, albums, tracks, and live shows. Here I will write about the music I love, most of which inspired me to start Alt Revue in the first place. I'm excited to highlight this music and talk about how it has impacted me. I hope you enjoy getting a glimpse into some of my favorites!
Today I'm going to be talking about one of my favorite collaborative albums of all time Lotta Sea Lice, by Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile! First a little backstory on this masterpiece. The collaborative album was released in October of 2017 and was recorded between January and March of 2017. The two held a collaborative tour as well in the summer of 2017. I love this collaboration because it makes so much sense musically. Barnett and Vile are similar in their styles, both delivering solid guitar-work accompanied by their unique vocal stylings. Both are also gifted lyricists. With that said let's take a deeper look at the individual tracks on the album!
Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile: Lotta Sea Lice
1. "Over Everything" - Barnett and Vile take turns on the verses here, beautifully trading off at the perfect moment before joining on the hook. The song also features the two performing a fantastic low key melody throughout.
2. "Let It Go" - Again Barnett and Vile take turns with vocals here but at a much slower pace. There is a lot more harmonization throughout this track. The guitars in this song are prominent, particularly the leads. Additionally, the percussion in the track has an almost marching drum sound to it. This song is more in the lo-fi genre but is definitely a winner.
3. "Fear is Like a Forest" - Classic blues/folk sounding guitar intro, that has reverb and fuzz all over it. There is something very Southern Blues feeling about this track. Barnett is the primary vocalist in this track, with Vile providing backup harmonizing vocals. It blends perfectly with the guitars and drums. This is such a complete track and I love the solo.
4. "Outta the Woodwork" - Sticking in the alt-blues, alt-country area that is more of Vile's forte comes "Outta of the Woodwork". Vile takes the primary vocals on this track. He is so deliberate in this track with the pronunciations of the words in verses. Barnett is great as a supporting vocalist here in the harmonies around and during the hook. Though truth be told, she extends her vocals beyond just supporting Vile. She holds many of her vocal parts beyond where she needs to and it makes the chorus so much better. We get the similar fuzzy guitar style that both Vile and Barnett are known for in this track.
5. "Continental Breakfast" - A mix of acoustic and electric guitars make up the melody here (with electrics on the lead). Vile and Barnett go back to trading off on verses in this one, before joining one another at the end of verses. Their harmonization during the chorus of this song might be the best of the album. It's hard to say when there are so many good moments. I love the lyrics in this one, where Barnett and Vile touch so much on self image.
6. "On Script" - Barnett is the sole vocalist here. The song features a driving melody that does its best to highlight her vocals. The musical breakdown in the track is fantastic.
7. "Blue Cheese" - Very fun track with a heavy influence on the lyrical side from Barnett (you can tell from the rhyming scheme). For the most part Barnett and Vile share vocals here which are heavily tied to the melody. Barnett and Vile play very well off the melody. I love the presence of the banjo in the track and the fun collaborative vocals (see "nana nana boo boo").
8. "Peepin' Tom" - Love, love, love, the guitar in this song, which is acoustic. Lots of finger-picking, hammer-ons, and pull-offs, great stuff. Barnett is the sole vocalist here and she does a great job with it utilizing her vocal range hitting some highs near the middle of the track that pop off the record.
9. "Untogether" - Barnett and Vile come together for one last track that situates itself in a sort of indie, psychedelic, alt-country area. It's simply fantastic and is the perfect way to close this album with their harmonized vocals. Additionally the acoustic guitars and electric leads just so delicately and perfectly support the vocals.
There is so much musical and vocal versatility in this album. Barnett and Vile don't find a formula and stick with it, which would have been easy to do. Instead, they have songs where Barnett takes the lead, songs where Vile will, songs where they trade, or songs where they sing together, or alone. They really do it all here vocally and musically, to great success. I have to say if Alt Revue had been around in 2017, this likely would have been my album of the year.
For your enjoyment, I've included a fantastic acoustic performance at NPR Tiny Desk from Barnett and Vile. This video definitely helps you appreciate the musical partnership they formed in 2017.