Album Review: Courtney Barnett – Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit

By on Tuesday, 31st March 2015 at 12:00 pm
 

Courtney Barnett Sometimes I Sit and Think, Sometimes I Just Sit‘Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit’. For a change, it’s an album title that actually has some substance and explanation as you work your way through Aussie slacker Courtney Barnett‘s full-length debut. A year ago she’d never set foot with her music outside Australia, yet a year on she’s playing a stream of shows across the UK, followed by American dates and European festivals too. On her debut album you discover just why she’s found her feet so quickly. Put simply, Barnett’s style is straightforward, everyday even.

Opener ‘Elevator Operator’ has a sharp, psychedelic rhythm, and even before you delve into her lyrics, you realise she might not mean to be witty, but these everyday tales of hers are entirely relatable. On ‘Aqua Profunda!’ she recalls a flirtatious encounter at a swimming pool (“I was getting dizzy, my hair was wet and frizzy”) against a backdrop of burning bass, and then there’s her tales of house hunting on the folky ‘Depreston’, previously featured as a Video of the Moment on TGTF. She might be adding narrative to everyday occurrences, but as a lyricist, she turns mundane stories into attention grabbing cliffhangers.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o-nr1nNC3ds[/youtube]

‘Pedestrian at Best’ is the closest she comes to producing a single, brimming with a bolshy confidence that Barnett delights in toying with. She maintains her wit, but beneath the grungy ’90s rock and fizzing riffs her anxieties are still apparent, chanting “put me on a pedestal and I’ll only disappoint you”, and adding “my internal monologue is a saturated analogue”.

This debut album offers just that, an expose into the chaotic mindset of a modern songwriter. There are times when billowing riffs appear on ‘Dead Fox’, or wild abandon sets in on ‘Nobody Cares if You Don’t Go to the Party’. It has fluid choruses and an Aussie drawl to die for, as the garage rock slowly concentrates itself into an overwhelming bridge. But, how the ideas for these songs have developed sometimes feels a little muddied; case in point, ‘Debbie Drowner’ and its wishy-washy melody. ‘Small Poppies’ also feels lacking in sophistication: there’s stylistic touches with blues riffs, but nothing to really get excited about, and the same holds true for ‘Boxing Day Blues’. She thrashes out a few select, punky and single-worthy songs at light-speed, only to follow up with several songs that feel overthought and hard to stomach.

‘Sometimes I Sit…’ results in an intense listen, and whilst the album has its turbulent moments, it’s about as true as you’ll come in 2015 to finding an album that truly wears its heart on its sleeve. It’s fascinating, likeable and relevant, but crucially leaves you at a crossroad. Do you want to follow this Melbourne native down the road of a rebellious garage rock to soundtrack wild summer parties; or would you rather have a slow-burning, heavier affair of late night smoking and wistful memories?

7.5/10

‘Sometimes I Sit and Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit’, the debut album from Courtney Barnett, is out now on Mom + Pop Records. For past TGTF coverage on Courtney Barnett, go here.

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There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

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TGTF is edited by Mary Chang, who is based in Washington, DC. She is joined by writers in England, America and Ireland. It began as a UK music blog by Phil Singer in 2005.

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