18 Mar 2015

Courtney Barnett / Sometimes I Sit and Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit (album review)

In 2013, with her debut not-quite-an-album The Sea of Split Peas, singer-songwriter Courtney Barnett established herself as one of the finest wordsmiths in modern music; through witty, vivid and pictorial lyrics she crafted some of the nicest pop songs of that year. Avant Gardener's recall of an allergic reaction is heralded as her best work to date, forlorn Out Of The Woodwork's piano-accompanied despair is brilliant, and History Eraser is a real rock 'n' roll gem that saw her first showcase that brilliant low-key stream of consciousness lyrics that have since become a big part of her songwriting.

But that was 2013; here, in 2015, Courtney's releasing her full debut, and even from 2013's effort, Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes Just Sit is a huge step forward. She's maintained her dry wit, cynical self-analysis and her ability to write brilliant little songs with an anecdotal quality, but she's also musically streamlined her sound musically so that her Aussie accent comes out a lot cleaner over the top of the slacker guitar sound that her band perfects. 

Opening track Elevator Operator exhibits Barnett's brilliance as a raconteur as she recites the tale of a businessman and a neurotic young man meeting on the rooftop of a block of flats to talk about life. It's the detail in the lyrics that make it so wonderful; "I like to imagine I'm playing Sim City/the people look like ants from up here/and the wind's the only traffic up here" is one of my favourites on the whole album. In a similar vane, Depreston tells the tale of first-time home buyers, and it shows the same level of wit, and similarly brilliant lyrics; "we don't need to be around all these coffee shops (...) now we've got that percolator/never made a latte greater."

But as well as that, Barnett's topics stray from funny little anecdotes; like in Elevator Operator, she trivialises her otherness in Nobody Really Cares If You Don't Go To The Party, and in Pedestrian At Best she blasts her way through indecision in a stream-of-consciousness way, accompanied by some genuinely exhillarating guitars. 

The lead single Pedestrian At Best is the fastest, most rock-based song on the album, with 7 minute epic Small Poppies and Kim's Caravan being at the complete other end of the spectrum. Both of them are kind of centrepieces for the album, and are both whimsical dreamy numbers that are forlorn more than anything. Maybe that's the best thing about this album; it certainly has variety, and Courtney exhibits a huge dynamics of emotions throughout. Courtney Barnett is one of the most talented singer-songwriters in world music today, and this just proves it. Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit is an incredibly accomplished debut with 11 fantastic songs that show off her incredible talent.