UTAH TECH UNIVERSITY'S STUDENT NEWS SOURCE | May 28, 2024

Album Analysis: Courtney Barnett sticks to her style with new LP

Share This:

Just one album in, this Aussie is like a rolling stone.

Courtney Barnett’s lyrical excellence came to fore after 2014’s sprawling, witty EP, “The Double EP: A Sea of Split Peas.” “I notice you stopped talking to me; now you’re talking to me all the time / Do you know you’re no good at listening, but you’re really good at saying everything on your mind,” she sang on that release’s opening, “Out of the Wood.”

Barnett’s first official project, “Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I just Sit,” continues her mind-bending work.

Even with indie’s numerous subcategories (folk, rock, pop and psychedelic, anyone?) — categorizing Barnett proves difficult, and track one, “Elevator Operator,” emphasizes this.

Her lyrics channel Bob Dylan, keyboards are an ode to New Pornographers, and guitars sound like indie’s most gritty groups like The Black Keys and The White Stripes.

So don’t worry what genre she falls into and just enjoy this 11-track ode to the mundane.

With “Pedestrian at Best,” song two and the album’s first single, Barnett acts as an angsty alt-rocker — yelling each syllable and nearly bursting her guitar strings. ‘90s and ‘00s garage rock never teamed up so effectively, and only a Kurt Cobain-Jack White collab could make this idea more interesting.

Barnett ushers in the song with, “I love you; I hate you; I’m on the fence; It all depends / Whether I’m up or down, I’m on the mend, transcending all reality.” She also likes you, despises you and admires you; later on she drifts, shifts and seeks bliss. 

Basically, only Sun Kil Moon rivals Barnett in jam-packing tracks with numerous ideas without completely confusing listeners.

Sun Kil Moon’s “Benji” topped 2014 end-of-year lists for lead singer Mark Kozelek’s almost overly descriptive stanzas about things that constitute our lives. Stories of strange friends, child-parent relationships and grim deaths all made “Benji” a standout, and “Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I just Sit” leaves little to its audience’s imagination too.

Still, Barnett allows her fans to interpret some lyrics in whatever way they please.

Her lyric “I’m thinking of you, too” from “An illustration of Loneliness (Sleepless in New York)” could illustrate the songstress from Down Under’s confidence that a flame of some sort still has her on his mind. Or, Barnett just has so much to tackle in any given day that remembering this lover is somewhere on life’s boring laundry list — between a visit to the DMV and picking up chips and salsa for an obligatory family dinner.

Appeasing the Album Analyzer, Barnett relies on dreary chord progressions, lyrics only a loser should relate to and a consistently simple but loud rhythm section. Listeners find this formula more often than not: “Small Poppies,” “Dead Fox,” “Debbie Downer” and “Boxing Day Blues” all stick to it.

Barnett hasn’t changed much since last year’s “The Double EP: A Sea of Split Peas” — and doing so would be unnecessary.

“Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I just Sit” won’t usher Barnett into fame and glory, but judging by the album’s lyrics, that’s not what she seeks. Play this collection again and again and again to pick up on stanzas you probably relate to.

Final Rating: Four out of Five Suns