Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit

Courtney Barnett

Mom + Pop Music/Marathon Artists/Milk!, 2015

REVIEW BY: Vish Iyer


Just by the virtue of who she is, it is almost impossible not to fall in love with Courtney Barnett. If she is not absolutely and genuinely free of pretentiousness, she is nothing. This Melbourne, Australia-native neither wants nor purports to be some sort of a deep intellectual artist on her debut, the aptly – and cheekily – titled Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit. In addition, she doesn’t pretend to be a naive singer-songwriter setting about writing simple words of earnestness and beauty either.

For sure, Barnett’s lyrics are simple, but they are more ad-hoc than earnest. As a matter of fact, her lyrics are sometimes too off-the-cuff to be nothing more than “pedestrian at best,” just like her song title. However, the casualness and the crudeness with which she writes and performs these songs not only makes her refreshing, but in fact original, especially in the context of the musical climate surrounding her, where polished songmanship is the norm.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Her first single “Pedestrian At Best” has probably been most folks’ introduction to her music. This unbelievably catchy track is undoubtedly the best on this record. At the same time, it is also representative of the other songs on this album, especially in terms of Barnett’s quirky songwriting and deadpan vocal delivery.

Without question, the strength in Barnett’s music is in her lyrics and how she sings them. If the words and singing on “Pedestrian At Best” charm you, then you will find the rest of Sometimes I Sit…charming, too. Barnett’s observations are trivial: the random thoughts that are going on in her head while she is lying in bed trying to fall asleep (“An Illustration Of Loneliness (Sleepless In New York)”); her thoughts on organic produce juxtaposed with her observations on roadkill, along with other painfully detailed – and sleep-inducing – observations from some roadtrip she took (“Dead Fox”). But, like magic, she makes her mundane details interesting and cool, which is what makes her so unique.

Mundaneness aside, when Barnett chooses to get profound, she does a fantastic job. On “Kim’s Caravan,” where she expresses her deep concern for the environment, she does a fantastic job lyrically as well as musically, with the intense and psychedelic atmosphere of the song. The words “Don’t ask me what I really mean / I am just a reflection of what you really wanna see / So take you want from me” provide a rather tongue-in-cheek angle to the song, instructing the listener not to take her too seriously.

It is nearly impossible not to associate Barnett with the likes of PJ Harvey or Patti Smith, because of the sense of carelessness and rebelliousness she shares with them. However, Barnett will be the first to point out that she is certainly not as good as any musician that she might be compared with – or as she would say, “put me on a pedestal and I’ll only disappoint you.”

But none of the aforementioned musicians would have said anything different from Barnett about themselves (and the artists they were identified with) when they first started making music until their influence on the greater music landscape became apparent. Barnett might be right about herself today, but we will have to wait and see what the future will hold.

Rating: B

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© 2015 Vish Iyer and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Mom + Pop Music/Marathon Artists/Milk!, and is used for informational purposes only.