'Fear Is Like a Forest' from Lotta Sea Lice by Courtney Barnett & Kurt Vile
Entirely possible that this entry references the most mainstream record of the 2017 advent and that Lotta Sea Lice is perhaps the least Unpopular of all the albums I have loved this year. When the idea of a collaboration between this particular Courtney and Kurt first drifted across my consciousness I admit it did not fill me with any extraordinary sense of expectation. For whilst I have listened to and greatly enjoyed solo records by both, nothing previously hinted that Lotta Sea Lice would be so marvellously greater than the sum of its two parts.
I have no idea if there might be some on-going creative chemistry between Vile and Barnett but the proof of Lotta Sea Lice is that something magical happened in the process of making this record and I sincerely hope they make more of it. The interplay between the two throughout is marvellously natural: A melding of Gen X freak stoner minds swapping guitar licks and poetry across great divides. Album opener ‘Over Everything’ opened our minds early, its epic six minutes of give and take between the two essentially laying the blueprint, sketching the premise of the entire set in strokes that were at once striking and subtle. Keep it simple, stupid. Keep it stupid, simple.
In honesty I kinda keep expecting Lotta Sea Lice to give up giving out, but it keeps on rolling, unveiling new textures and simple treasures each and every time I listen. An inflection here, a pause for breath there. A bent guitar note everywhere and nowhere. Okay, okay, maybe you picked up the oblique Neil Young reference there and yeah yeah, its too easy to be casual about this but I do think Lotta Sea Lice could be some Crazy Horse record beamed in on a Tardis trip from the seventies. Barnett makes the nod too in her own notes about their cover of partner Jen Cloher’s ‘Fear Is Like A Forest’, and oh my it’s a tremendous moment on a terrific album. Filled with lackadaisical twilight porch rocking gloom, it is a song that trawls the depths and harvests blinking lights of hope despite it all. And Honest to God that’s surely something worth having in this year more than any.