(Photo: Viktor Ruiz)
I should start a new "late to the party" tag on here 'cause I am really slipping. Sure, I wrote about Childhood and Temples a good 2 years before those debut records dropped but I feel like a fool for not listening to very much Courtney Barnett until this week. What was I thinking, man!?!
Courtney Barnett has released a scorching record in Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit (2015), out now on Mom and Pop Music here in the USA. It's a fantastic set of affecting music that deserves every bit of praise it's currently getting.
Take for instance the awesome "Dead Fox" which astonishingly seems to effortlessly blend Liz Phair -- when she was still indie -- with early Pretenders. Catchy and effervescent, the song is a pure delight. And those guitar squalls don't hurt either.
"Nobody Really Cares If You Don't Go To the Party" recalls nothing so much as a bit of Nick Lowe-penned pop over top of Barnett's ferocious axe-work. Her solo here is just pure joy. What makes this such good music is that a tune like this is eminently easy to appreciate and yet complex. There are ways in which music like this could have been done in a lazy manner but Courtney seems to be pushing herself on every track to do something inventive or different. There's no shame in being smart and catchy, you know?
When she sings "I'm not finished..." near the end of "Debbie Downer" and the band pounds behind her, the effect is glorious. There are touchstones for this sort of thing but, really, those touchstones don't do justice to how great this record is and I'd be doing more harm than good comparing this to other stuff. Barnett deserves better than that because there's something original here that is so hard to pin down but so, so easy to love.
And then she switches it up on the eco-minded "Kim's Caravan" which features guitar lines worthy of comparisons to the best Richard Thompson tracks. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that the very structure of the song -- the build-up and release -- is classic Richard Thompson.
(Photo: Dan Briggs)
All throughout Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit (2015) there is more invention and heart on display than a 100 indie bands. Courtney Barnett is thoroughly engaged and thank God for that, eh? There is nothing here that is "Pedestrian at Best", to quote one of her song titles. She may sing lines like "Why even bother?" but Barnett knows the answer and gives this record her all. And, remarkably, the results are never strident or embarrassingly heartfelt. Courtney Barnett has managed to make music that sounds borderline effortless that never descends into cheap heart-on-the-sleeve stuff, nor does it turn into slacker rock from the Clinton era. This is bracing and invigorating rock the very existence of which is a sort of miracle. I reference the early stuff from Chrissie Hynde and The Pretenders only for some sort of easy comparison. If the sound is not quite the same, the attitude nearly is. What's different now is that Barnett does not sound like she needs to prove anything to the boys. No, Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit (2015) is the sound of someone who's won the argument already.
In an age when people are detached and unnecessarily ironic hipsters, the music of Courtney Barnett offers something legit and real without any of that heavy lifting of other bands who try so hard to make something this direct. I can think of no other record you're gonna hear in 2015 that will be this easy to love. Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit (2015) is a blast and I reckon that as more time passes, it will seem more and more like the masterpiece it is.
Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit (2015) is out now on Mom and Pop Music in the States.
Follow Courtney Barnett on her official Facebook page.