Today I wanted to tell you a bit about a duo (by the way, an interesting reference to Cobain and Love, in fact the names is the only thing they have in common, but thanks to that I can use this pretext to write about them in the 90s blog). They released a joint album called “Lotta Sea Lice” in October this year with Matador Records. The label hosted performers such as Sonic Youth (as a band and solo albums of Thurstone Moore or Lee Ranaldo), Lou Reed, Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, as well as musicians outside the alternative rock stream (Boards Of Canada or Nightmares on Wax). Before we get to the album, I would like to introduce these two musicians. While reading you can play songs from the playlist, which I prepared especially for you.
I came across Kurt a few years ago and immediately liked the way he played and sang. I like this analogue lo-fi sound. The lyrics were very much to my liking too:
I want to change but I do not wanna stay the same
I wanna go but I’m running
I wanna work but I do not wanna sit around
All day frowning
I wanna give up but I kinda wanna lie down
But not sleep, just rest
Give me a break, how much does it really take
Get my head out of here
Or for example:
I cannot go on like this
With a clenching fist
But nicotine is even in my dreams
We tried to school you but you just cut class
Get your head out of your ass
His “anti-star” style and demeanour are also of significance here. Of course, I associate this with the grunge era, when personality, music and lyrics counted, in opposition to being presented in the music video as God himself, among a pile of money and naked girls. That’s why when I heard, and then saw Vile, I was convinced.
Kurt Vile was born in 1980 in Lansdowne, Pennsylvania. He got a banjo for his 14th birthday (though he was expecting a guitar – but that did not prevent him from further development) and began to learn to play and write lyrics. In my opinion, sometimes you can hear references to banjo in his playing technique. Kurt’s favourite performers at the time were musicians like Beck, Neil Young and Pavement. He worked as a forklift operator and in his spare time he recorded his demos at home. He was not a happy man at the time and he speaks about this period as “a difficult time” when he became depressed and doubted his skills (he did not go to college). On top of it all, he was very shy. After two years in this job and state of mind, he started collaborating with a lyrics writer, Adam Granduciel. In 2003 they founded the band The War on Drugs. In 2008 they released their debut album “Wagonwheel Blues”. That same year, Kurt released his solo album “Constant Hitmaker,” consisting mainly of his home recordings and one studio recording. Both albums were played on a tour where Kurt Vile played as a support for The War on Drugs. Then Kurt left the band and developed his solo career, releasing more albums: “God is Saying This to You” (2009), “Childish Prodigy” (2010), “Smoke Ring for My Halo” (2011), “Wakin on a Pretty Daze” (2013), “b’lieve i’m goin down” (2015). With each record, he became more and more interesting in my opinion. Initially, there were great compositions and ballads, and after that he broadened the spectrum of instruments and emerged from the sphere of ballads. You can trace this by listening to my playlist where I picked songs from Kurt’s albums and listed them in a chronological order.
As for Courtney Barnett, I found out about her only a year ago. I think she appeared in my Spotify recommendations. I did not immediately convince myself to her and I certainly did not like her as much as Kurt, but I think she is definitely worth attention. Courtney was born 7 years earlier than Kurt, in 1987, in Sydney, Australia. She wrote her first song at the age of 12. She studied drawing and photography at the University of Tasman, but just like Kurt, she was not a fan of formal education either, and after two years she quit her studies. During this period she was struggling with serious clinical depression resulting from a long period when she was out of work and had problems with low self-esteem. In 2013, with the help of her relatives, she handled these issues big style, as she set up her own record label Milk. In 2015 she released her debut album “Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit”, which reached the fourth place on the list of most popular albums in Australia and gained the status of a golden record. Barnett lives with her partner Jen Cloher in Melbourne. Her lyrics are also quite to my taste:
You always get what you want
And you do not even try
Your friends hate it
But I’m glad that you got luck on your side
You’re saying definitely maybe
I’m saying probably no
You say “You sleep when you’re dead,” I’m scared I’ll die in my sleep
I guess that’s not a bad way to go
After the release of her debut album, she won many significant awards and was even mentioned in the Rolling Stone magazine. Her music certainly has some kind of common language with Kurt’s, but it seems to me that the best of her emerged in their joint album. The album was promoted by the single “Over Everything” accompanied by a simple black-and-white music. I like this tune immensely. I like simple and quiet playing. In addition, their styles and personalities complement each other nicely.
A few days ago I found another music video from this album, which simply synchronised with my mood in an amazing way. It is extremely warm, family, friendly and cheerful, but not sweet or kitschy. It is like notes from Kurt and Courtney’s life, something like a VHS tape documenting the private sphere of life, without any filters. I like this visual diary very much. Maybe I’m just old, and I exchange music videos with long-haired musicians in flannel shirts stagediving or spitting on the crowd, for something more like this, but it’s probably of family values being closer to my heart now. However, I’m sure I will cover also other types of music videos, because I love them too. Enjoy your journey: