Sunday, 5 April 2015

Courtney Barnett-Sometimes I Sit and Think and Sometimes I Just Sit

Momentum and hype can be tough obstacles, especially when you have released three acclaimed EP'S and built a considerable international buzz. However Courtney Barnett has successfully traversed that minefield with her debut album Sometimes I Sit and Think and Sometimes I Just Sit. It's an album entwined with distinct narratives, Barnett has a very witty and personal approach to her writing, whether it's poking fun at hipsters or the depressing sameness of the inner city suburbs. Barnett captures the city in a way few songwriters have been able to, along the same lines as Paul Kelly, her narratives wrap around each song like the Yarra wraps itself around the city. Where her EP's had a loose sound the album has more musical bite, crunchy alt pop with crashing guitars are dominant, Barnett does show a more restrained side on songs like Depreston.

Elevator Operator has a nice hammond organ sound permeating through, Barnett has a unique take on the rat race and a generation that appears to be beset with anxiety.

Oliver Paul, twenty years old
Thick head of hair, worrying that he's going bald
Wakes up at quarter past nine
Fair evades his way down the 96 tram line
Breakfast on the run again, he's well aware
He's dropping soy linseed Vegemite crumbs everywhere.

Pedestrian Best has a similar strident rocking sound as the opener with more distorted guitar lines, capturing a sense of anxiety and uncertainty, "I suppose we all outgrow ourselves I'm a fake, I'm a phoney, I'm awake, I'm alone, I'm homely, I'm a Scorpio". Small Poppies has some great fretwork, bending, breaking and crashing as the song mournfully drifts to it's conclusion. I've seen Courtney live and she is a great guitarist not sure if this is her playing lead or Dan Luscomb from The Drones. Depreston is the standout track because it's a song that has a personal feel for me as it touches on where I live. Preston is a suburb in the inner north of Melbourne, it's 10km from the city and her description of buying a house in the area matches my own recollections. It's an old working class area, when we were house hunting we went to many houses that were deceased estates with old cannisters for tea, flour and sugar! Courtney lives closer to the city in a suburb called Northcote, a trendy hipster enclave with countless coffee shops! Before her music career took off Courtney could be found pouring beers at the Northcote Social club.

You said we should look our further
I guess it wouldn't hurt us
We don't have to be around all these coffee shops
Now we got that percolator
Never made a latte greater
I'm saving 23 dollars a week

We drive to a house in Preston
We see police arresting a man with his hand in a bag
How's that for first impressions
These place seems depressing
It's a Californian bungalow in a cul de sac

Depreston belongs in the canon of great songs about Melbourne, it sits alongside the work of the Lucksmiths, Paul Kelly and Skyhooks who were the first band to really capture the heart of inner Melbourne. Aqua Profunda restores the balance of indie inspired rock against the more delicate rhythms of Depreston. Debbie Downer sounds like late 80's REM with a poppy keyboard hook in the chorus.
It's been a long time since an artist dropped an album with such a unique lyrical style, stream of consciousness on some songs and other with a more structured narrative.

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