Review: Great Indie Talkers Kurt Vile and Courtney Barnett Have Conversational Collabo

Here are two great indie-rock songwriters getting together to spool out autumnal guitar prettiness and converse about life, art and whatever. As collaborators, they’re a perfect match: Kurt Vile is a master of zoned-out fingerpicking and droll longhaired jive; Courtney Barnett is a Dylanesque image ninja who can turn everyday stuff like making ramen noodles into rich, personal meditations. The idea of a Kurt and a Courtney making a record has a darkly funny resonance but the Nineties fantasy-rock pairing they really evoke is Stephen Malkmus and Liz Phair, the languid guitar surgeon and the causally incisive lyrical realist.

On the dappled “Over Everything,” they trade lines about songwriting strategies and tinnitus over beautifully bent riffs, and whistle and whoo-hoo their way through the relaxed country rock of “Blue Cheese,” which shouts out a weed dealer named Tina and free-form radio hero Tom Scharpling. The pair do a song by Barnett’s partner, Jen Cloher (the Crazy Horse-style aloneness anthem “Fear Is Like a Forest”), and tenderly duet on Belly’s 1993 deep cut “Untogether.” Most endearing is “Continental Breakfast,” a jangle-folk ode to their friendship; Vile sings about weird shit he’s been thinking and walks he’s been taking, and Barnett chimes in, “I’m feelin’ inferior on the interior.” It’s like buddies at the bar, or a 2 a.m. text thread. They make each other feel better.