Album Review | Courtney Barnett | Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I just Sit | Mom + Pop
Nowhere else can you find such an eloquent and descriptive report of the innocent pleasures and inherent pain that’s deep-seated in the day-to-day little things that everyone on earth will face and can relate to in one way or another, than in a Courtney Barnett lyric.
Some of my favourite singers are the ones who mask their talent with a less pronounced cadence and vibrato, and go for a lazier and more human feel. Courtney Barnett, 27, is a singer-songwriter from Melbourne, Australia, who most certainly embraces this style, and you wouldn’t want it any other way. She moves with her vocal as if she’s sunburnt and a few beers deep. You can easily get swept up in the mono-mumbles and over look the brilliant lyricism, “drank til I was sinking, sank til I was thinking that I’m thankful for this view.” I was first introduced to her sloppily seeming but masterfully crafted work with the song “Pickles From The Jar” from the Milk! Records compilation disc, A Pair of Pears (with Shadows) released August of 2014. But it’s in “Sometimes I Sit and Think” that she proves her place as one of the most original songwriters of the decade.
Having just arrived back from Australia myself, I appreciated the Vegemite reference in the first track. “Elevator Operator” gives no time to warm up, as she sets the tone immediately. A story about the adventures of a daydreamer skipping work, he gives his tie to a homeless guy and builds a coke can pyramid in the grass on his way to his favourite rooftop, where he fancifully muses his imagination by pretending he’s playing Sim City, “all the people look like ants from up here.” But the snakeskin purse wearing, botox faced woman, described so colourfully in verse 3, confuses him for suicidal. “I’d do anything to have skin like you!” the woman pleads.
“Pedestrian at Best” is a fast paced, distorted number about a confused and doomed relationship, “at least I’ve tried my very best I guess.” She’s quite happy to give up on this accord, “give me all your money, and I’ll make some origami, honey,” as she freely expresses her disinterest. The fun loving song has a very 90’s sounding tag at the end of it’s chorus. Despite the relaxed and conversational vocals, the instrumentation throughout the album is airtight. A perfect example is the incredibly catchy and up-tempo internal battle of whether to go out or not, in “Nobody Really Cares If You Don’t Go to the Party”. An interesting reversed guitar riff begins “Dead Fox”, and the wandering guitar in “Small Poppies” tells a story in itself.
Barnett’s melancholic refection of the ceiling and walls in the restless account of solitude in “An illustration of Loneliness” can easily be overlooked as she lobs the listener a chance for happy, head-bobbing ignorance if choosing not to listen to the heartbroken lyrics, where she’s wondering “which quarter of the moon you’re viewing from your bedroom.” A similar narrative in the 7 minute, stoned and sun washed “Small Poppies”, in which she decides that it’s not in her best interest to mow the lawn today. “Oh the humanity, I want to disappear into obscurity,” her insecurity plays a charming role in the record. But after sitting and watching the grass grow, she then accuses her target audience member, “but I’m sure it’s a bore being you.”
For me, the highlight of the record comes mid way, with a sadness and sarcasm in the euphonic and beautiful “Depreston”, a song about an unwanted move into a suburban neighbourhood. She might miss the coffee shops, but at least she’s saving $23 a week with their new percolator. The sweet and pleasant guitar line rolls through the whole song, and makes me think, – you sure make this depressing town sound beautiful to me, I wish I was there. Is it hot? Does it rain? I don’t care either way, this song could make anywhere seem like a good place to make a home.
“Take what you want from me,” she pleads for the better part of a minute in “Kim’s Caravan” where the album takes an anticipated dark turn. The acid rock bass line and creepy echoing guitars makes me think of something you might find in a Sleepy Sun record. The intoxicated song sings of the dying oceans, “the great barrier reef, it’s not so great any more, it’s been raped beyond belief, the dredgers treat her like a whore.”
Barnett, a storyteller, paints pictures with phrasing (not to mention she does her own album artwork) and makes you feel like you’re right there with her and her protagonists. Sometimes I Sit and Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit perfectly describes a mind full of passing thoughts as her own, and we’re just thankful she can catch her moments so charmingly.
- Elevator Operator
- Pedestrian At Best
- An Illustration of Loneliness (Sleepless in New York)
- Small Poppies
- Aqua Profunda!
- Dead Fox
- Nobody Really Cares If You Don’t Go to the Party
- Debbie Downer
- Kim’s Caravan
- Boxing Day Blues
WORDS: Patrick Codere