Review: Lotta Sea Lice by Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile

Lotta Sea Lice by Courtney Barnett and Kurt VileEarly into Lotta Sea Lice – an unexpected collaboration between Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile – I found myself going back to another relatively recent collaboration album, that of Adam Green and Binki Shapiro. There was a comfort in that record, although perhaps it’s partly down to the decision to mine some polished version of lush 60s folk pop. I’ll admit that realization happened during a moment when the two singers – he, incredibly laid back; she, incredibly detailed – had some harmonies going on. “Wow, this is something.” It’s an unlikely record, yet it’s an incredibly enjoyable one. Both played up to each other’s strengths and actually delivered a collaboration record where it’s not two people putting things together and hoping something sticks. It’s like they have been working together for decades, like their music have influenced each other all this time. Listen to how effortless they cover each other’s songs (I barely recognized Kurt’s take on Courtney’s “Out of the Woodwork”, from A Sea of Split Peas – it languished nicely) or songs from others (there’s an inevitable sweetness to Courtney’s take on “Fear Is Like A Forest”, from her wife Jen Cloher). But the best part is when they take each other’s sensibilities and just meld, even if it’s a song about writing songs. In its sweet, meandering pace, Lotta Sea Lice is a thrill. [NB]4/5

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Review: Colors by Beck

Colors by BeckBeck is done reinventing himself; his career has run long enough that it seems he has explored every sound he can explore. His sense of adventurousness now lies in how he easily oscillates from one mode to another, between albums, although in recent releases it hasn’t felt as crafty, rather feeling a bit perfunctory. That’s not to say Morning Phase was bad; that’s also not to say that his latest, Colors, is. The albums have their moments, but both are bogged down by a certain monotony. The former manages to mask it nicely; the latter, not so. Perhaps it’s because it’s Beck’s most overtly pop record in a while, every track shimmering and glittering and drenched in an explosion of, well, colors. The downside is, you get tracks that you feel have been explored before, with songs reminiscent of everyone from Weezer to Foster the People. It’s all up, no down, and while that isn’t a bad thing by itself, across the record you feel Beck could’ve done something more. Could he have, though? Perhaps he wanted something that didn’t really require a lot of introspection? [NB]3/5

Review: Masseduction by St. Vincent

Masseduction by St. VincentSt. Vincent’s been known for being – well, sometimes – brutally honest in her songs, but I wasn’t really prepared for Masseduction. Perhaps it’s because, in her past albums, the singer we otherwise know as Annie Clark has remained a bit of a mystery, with her shifting styles the best way to represent her. But then she found herself in the spotlight thanks to her relationship with actress Cara Delevigne. That didn’t last long, but the unfolding of that story has lent a different context to the honest of this new album. Hooky, with a keener sense of pop than her previous records (and that’s considering how her previous album fared), Masseduction glitters – but that quickly gives way to what I think is a gloomier, perhaps grimmer, outlook than what she did before. You no longer notice how actually addicting the songs are, and instead pay attention to how it all captured a tumultuous year in her life, evoking an emptiness we all attempt to deny – ending with “Smoking Section”, a closer that doesn’t so much screams as wonders, “what now?” A strong album, this. It should be easy to answer that last question soon. [NB]4/5

“Step by step eternity, infinite amenity.”

“Sand” by Yeah But No | This will begin on a slightly gross note: I have, as a doctor once said, “wet” earwax. This means I can’t easily clean my ears, because the wax would block the holes and not budge, meaning I would hear less on one ear than another. It’s not serious – you only need to visit the doctor to have the thing cleaned with something that, err, sucks – but it is a pain. I had that done this early this week, which means my ears are, for now, more… pristine than before. And then I get this on the inbox and my ears are fed this trippy, bouncy electronica – and it bounces even more, punches its way in, keeps it minimal and complex at the same time. The band is called Yeah But No (memories of Little Britain?) and is composed of Douglas Greed and Fabian Kuss, a project that blossomed from a bedroom thing into a full-fledged band. Must be the simple complexity that underlines “Sand”, which comes with their upcoming eponymous debut. Berlin, you have done it again. [NB] (Have things I should hear? Drop me a line here.)

“I will go until I find you.”

“Spaceman” by Francois Klark | Still on the inbox, and a track that gets slinky, and gets slinky quite nicely. Francois Klark, as his name suggests, has a bit of a cosmopolitan background: born in South Africa, based in Canada (Toronto, to be exact). Well, that says little about his music, really, but then that’s emblematic of how everyone borrows from everyone else these days. But “Spaceman” – a new single which dropped this week, ahead of his debut album next year – shows him off nicely: a smooth voice, production that kicks in at the right time, overall a song that could, would, grow on you. Let it. [NB] (Have things I should hear? Drop me a line here.)