Music Column: Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile converse, share mutual affection in new record

Music Column: Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile converse, share mutual affection in new record
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Clashing and thrashing through an indispensable relationship that seems essential and almost too obvious, if only because of similarly scruffy hair, Kurt Vile and Courtney Barnett make music about making music and the relationships they’ve formed because of it. 

Calling their newest album, "Lotta Sea Lice," music seems almost trite, or ineffective. The record, which was released last Friday, encapsulates the respect shared between the two artists and the easy reliance on a friendship formed through this mutual respect for each other and their appreciation for music. 

Any words I use to describe this album or either of the artists will be largely inadequate. It would be near impossible for me to match the vocabulary and language used in these tracks that perfectly illustrate the duo’s shared admiration for the work and opinions of others, specifically each other. 

This collaboration between Vile and Barnett provides an incredible juxtaposition to the creative processes and mindsets of other modern artists and musicians. Vile wrote “Over Everything,” the first single off the album with Barnett in mind; he envisioned her voice put to these lyrics. Luckily it’s a duet, but he would have settled for her voice alone. His obvious and overarching respect for Barnett’s work culminated in an endearing conversation that sometimes seems like it might be too personal to listen in on.

“Over Everything” embodies the coming together of these two individuals into a single representation of others, especially as it relates to how music and the relationships they’ve formed through this artform continue to shape their everyday lives.

The song’s black-and-white music video takes place in various locales with Vile dressed in white and Barnett dressed in black, but they are never seen together. Both smile at the camera, or at each other, almost wishing good luck. As the video progresses, Vile and Barnett sing each other’s verses. It’s representative of the funny, endearing dialogue that represents this relationship. Even though both artists are separated by location, they are in-sync and correlated because of their music.

“Continental Breakfast,” the album’s second single, continues to profit from this idea. The poetic verses and refrain soothingly bellows through your ear, as the guitars clang seemingly into each other: “I cherish my intercontinental friendships/We talk it over continental breakfast.” Vile and Barnett, from Philadelphia and Australia, respectively, are two of the same cloth, so obviously clear in each track. They are able to discuss their music-making processes and thought processes despite competing differences caused by distance. 

Vile and Barnett create dialog through lyrics and guitar riffs that might seem unattractive, but are unquestionably successful. Once you hear the album once, you’ll listen again to find the nuances that define the work of both artists. Hearing their descriptions of music and how they cope everyday through this art is something that I can wholly respect and understand - they just say it better. 

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