Sam Jennings checks out the debut studio release from pensive Australian indie rocker Courtney Barnett, Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit, following a successful day at Glastonbury.
“Barnett muses upon the benefits of mowing the lawn.”
Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit
Mom + Pop Music, 20 March 2015
[dropcap size=small]T[/dropcap]here is a highly explorative element to Courtney Barnett’s debut album Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit. It feels as though the Sydney-born singer-songwriter is just as curious as we are about what sounds she can make. Each song seems to show a completely different side to Barnett’s song writing ability with her conversational lyrics one of the few underlying themes.
At worst, it leads to a slightly disjointed feeling for the album. At best, it demonstrates just how versatile Barnett can be. As only a good artist can, Barnett wrings out simple absurdities from the most mundane everyday observations. This is clear from the very start, where, in ‘Elevator Operator’, she tells us a story with an Australian twang of ‘Oliver Paul, 20 years old/ Thick head of hair, worries he’s going bald’ who ends up being mistaken for a suicide case as he daydreams on a roof about Sim City and life as an elevator operator.
The opener is rooted in a classic slacker-esque set-up with loose guitar, and in just a few lines, Barnett manages to capture the average anxieties and routines of everyday life. The very nature of the album is anecdotal, and there is little that Barnett is unwilling to consider lyrically: from searching for a house to buy in ‘Depreston’, to healthy eating and roadkill in ‘Dead Fox’. There is a tangible humour to these songs, and each story is delivered in an idiosyncratic and deadpan way, a kind of neurotic mumbling, which, on occasion, has a Velvet Underground tinge to it.
The third and fourth tracks noticeably slow down the album after the more indie-punk style opening, allowing both the guitarists (Barnett and Luscombe) and us to relax a little and find room to breathe. Small Poppies, the last song before the tone changes again for ‘Depreston’, is a highlight of the album. It has a bluesy, grunge feel to it with gliding guitar work and a steady, laidback drumbeat, whilst Barnett muses upon the benefits of mowing the lawn. That said, she does not always reach that same calibre of brilliance some of her other songs promise.
As the album progresses, it begins to tail off a little, leading to a couple of rather generic tracks before it picks up again in Kim’s Caravan, an atmospheric seven minute long track that experiments with a lethargic bass, light electric guitar work and pattering cymbals. That is not to say that the previous songs Nobody Really Cares If You Don’t Go to the Party and Debbie Downer are without merit, only they seem to fill a generic Barnett-print, perhaps relying too much on a rock vibe without any solid foundation or musical concept to ‘rock’ from. All in all, though, Barnett has worked to produce an incredibly diverse album, more polished than her earlier EP work, yet still, save a couple of exceptions, capturing that essence of freshness. Despite Barnett’s warnings in Pedestrian at Best, where she yells ‘Put me on a pedestal, and I’ll only disappoint you,’ I, for one, am willing to risk it and sing her praises, just to see what else she may come up with before I am disappointed.