Aussie rocker Courtney Barnett’s newest release on Mom + Pop Records, “Sometimes I Sit and Think, Sometimes I Just Sit” is one of the most lyrically honest records of this year and proves Barnett is one of the most intriguing people writing music right now.
Barnett proved she had a knack for witty lyrical barbs on 2013’s “The Double EP: A Sea of Split Peas” and her latest album confirms she hasn’t dulled but rather sharpened. Instead of crafting her feelings and ideas into metaphorical vignettes, Barnett spews them out of her mouth like an overturned trash can for all the world to see. Her lyrics are simple and unordained, yet, are powerful for their self-awareness and honesty, like the best of Ernest Hemingway’s work.
Her simple truths are laid out in little short stories that detail everything from the trappings of fruitless jobs in “Elevator Operator” to the life after a breakup in the fuzzy “Small Poppies.” “I lay awake at 3/ Starting at the ceiling/ It’s kind of off-white, maybe it’s cream” talk-sings Barnett in her stoner drawl on “An Illustration of Loneliness (Sleepless in NY)” as she describes her wandering thoughts on an insomniac night. On “Depreston,” Barnett laments about rising house costs in the Melbourne suburbs over a sweetly, breezy country rhythm. Her problems aren’t any different than most and therefore are instantly relatable. It is refreshing to hear songs about mundane topics, like the stresses of organic food shopping on “Dead Fox,” done with the humor and wit of Barnett’s caliber.
Barnett’s own insecurities are often the basis for many of the songs and reveal a woman who is as anxious and vulnerable in today’s world as anyone else. “Pedestrian at Best” is stream of conscious punch in the gut in which Barnett states “I love you I hate you/ I’m on the fence/ It all depends on whether I am up or down.” The humorous “Nobody Really Cares If You Don’t Go To The Party” is a groovy, garage-rock track that unpacks the common sentiment expressed in the chorus “I want to go out but I want to stay home.”
Sonically, the album is based around the crunchy immediacy of ’90s alternative rock, albeit done in a slightly subdued manner. The songs wonderfully pump along with reverb and fuzz but the arrangements are never the centerpiece. They provide the vehicle for which Barnett to unleash her lyrics to the world. Without the lyrics, the instrumentation is void of any real weight.
Barnett is an insightful writer and “Sometimes I Sit and Think, Sometimes I Just Sit” definitely deserves a listen. It is not groundbreaking in music to write songs about heartache or shortcomings, but the way Barnett tackles these subjects with her humor and honesty is groundbreaking.
- Courtney Barnett
“Sometimes I Sit and Think, Sometimes I Just Sit”
Label: Mom + Pop Records
Release: March 24, 2015
Notable Tracks: “Pedestrian at Best,” “An Illustration of Loneliness (Sleepless in NY),” “Depreston”