Courtney Barnett’s debut album Sometimes I Sit and Think, And Sometimes I just Sit is a testament to her ability to combine Indie-rock with personal observations. Through the lyrics and music each track tells a different story of normal human emotions, with nothing dismissed as too trivial, like on Nobody Really Cares If You Don’t Go To The Party. You can hear Barnett’s dark sense of humour on every track; she sings “I used to hate myself but now I think I’m alright.” She ascribes this humour to an early obsession with Roald Dahl novels. Barnett’s monologue-style lyrics are present throughout the album, yet each song moves in a different direction - from the indie rock opening of tracks like Elevator Operator, to the jazz musings of Poppy, to the softer, acoustic sound of Depreston. Barnett has been labelled a slacker by the press (her album was finished by last April) but this is completely unfair. Barnett’s lyrics may have the air of improvisation, but the Melbourne-based musician’s album has been crafted with an enormous amount of care in order to sound effortless.
Elevator Operator offers a punchy start to the album, a heavy drumbeat and synth carrying the song coupled with Barnett’s dry lyrics, “I’m not suicidal just idling insufficiently”. As the opening song, the track sounds like a showpiece and a fairly confident start to the album. The song is followed by Barnett’s lyrical masterpiece Pedestrian at Best, which includes one of my favourite all time lyrics “Put me on a pedestal, I’ll only disappoint you / Tell me I’m exceptional, I’ll promise to exploit you / Give me all your money and I’ll make some origami honey”.
An Illustration of Loneliness (Sleepless in New York) is a personal favourite of mine from the album. It sounds more lethargic than the first few tracks, in a good way. The track combines Barnett’s dry observations with a catchy chorus that will remain in your mind for the rest of the day. An Illustration of Loneliness also exhibits the poetic nature of Barnett’s song writing as she muses, “Wondering what you’re doing, what you’re listening to, /which quarter of the moon you’re viewing from your bedroom”.
Later tracks such as Kim’s Caravan really demonstrate the scope and ambition of Barnett’s album, for it cannot be labelled as simply another Indie-rock album. The steady baseline and reflective tone of Kim’s Caravan offers a similar style to Alex Turner’s lyrical musings. But Barnett’s playful lyrics can still be heard “I can see Jesus and she’s smiling at me.”
As much as I have enjoyed the overall sound of Barnett’s album, it’s her sardonic lyrics that really stand out for me. It was only last year that Barnett toured outside of Australia so the UK leg of the musician’s tour is eagerly awaited. Courtney Barnett will be touring in the UK until the 10th April, finishing at Electric Ballroom, London.
More information on Courtney Barnett’s tour can be found here.