Courtney Barnett & Kurt Vile, “Lotta Sea Lice” (Matador Records)

Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile get together for an indie-pop guitar fest on “Lotta Sea Lice,” a low-key, deceptively effortless-sounding intercontinental collaboration.

Recorded over eight days spread across 15 months, the songs blend the individual styles of Australia’s Barnett and Vile, from Pennsylvania, despite the lack of officially shared writing credits.

The mood is laid back without fully slacking. While the singing, even in Barnett’s case, may contain a higher quotient of Vile’s drawl — which sometimes approximates the late Leon Russell or World Party’s Karl Wallinger — it’s that little pinch of sweetness in Barnett’s voice that really makes the songs gel.

The relaxed-but-bubbly attitude arrives fully formed already on the opening track, “Over Everything,” while “Fear Is Like a Forest” is the first of several tunes where Neil Young’s influence rears its swirling, slightly distorted head.

They also cover each other’s songs. Vile sings lead on “Out of the Woodwork,” from a Barrett EP, which includes lines like “It must be tiring trying so hard/To look like you’re not really trying at all” and “I guess if you’re afraid of aiming too high/Then you’re not really gonna have too far to fall.”

Barnett chooses “Peepin’ Tom,” one of the first Vile songs she heard, and whose dichotomies such as “I don’t wanna work, but i don’t wanna sit around all day frownin’/ I don’t wanna give up, but I kinda wanna lie down but not sleep, just rest” sound like slogans for whole album, which wraps up with a heartbreakingly languid version of Belly’s “Untogether.”

“Lotta Sea Lice” is like a conversation between best friends whose words just happen to overlap.

Author photo
PABLO GORONDI
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