Review: Bottle It In by Kurt Vile

Bottle It In by Kurt VileI acknowledge that I am not the best person to talk to when it comes to albums that really take their time – and yet I’m reviewing Bottle It In, perhaps Kurt Vile’s most meandering album ever. Yes, he’s had this reputation, but here he really gets lost in his thoughts, with a sprawling 80-minute opus of slow builds and even slower builds. To be fair, that is the beauty of the record: the ever-intricate manners in which Kurt gets to where he has to go, or at least supposed to. Somewhere along the way it seems he even loses track of himself, staying in the in-between for extended stretches until he realizes he has to move on, and move on he does, whether you’re still alert enough to tag along or not. That’s the allure of Bottle It In, but again, I’m a guy who tends to get bored, and here I felt like I was exerting more effort. Possibly an issue of sequencing again, because the first third of the record was engaging (with single “Backasswards” both a high point and a signpost of things to come) and the rest, well, there were some interesting things going on, but when one runs away with things, fully engrossed, everyone else take a while to catch up. And then it ends with a track simply called “Bottle Back” and it’s over. [NB]3/5

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