Australia has found its latest indie queen with the release of Courtney Barnett’s first full length offering Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit. Barnett’s is a uniquely Australian voice; straight out of Melbourne and into the hearts of young people right across the nation, and now across the world as well. On Sometimes I Sit she sings a number of vignettes that fit together perfectly to capture the life of an average Aussie twenty-something - and that is what is most appealing about the album: it’s just so relatable. (Lets face it: anyone in their twenties can relate to the lyric “I wanna go out, but I wanna stay home”).
There is nothing new or spectacularly complex in the instrumentation on this album, but this is because Barnett’s lyrics are the main attraction. Expressed in an almost monotonous, deadpan vocal style (with her trademark heavy Australian accent) her lyrics become poetry which is reinforced placing by the guitar, bass and drums in a secondary position in the background. This has lead to Barnett being compared to artists such as Sheryl Crow, Woody Guthrie and Bob Dylan. Although it is easy to see the similarities, she is much more than a simplistic facsimile of these greats, presenting her own distinctive and unique voice. Her lyrics are so incredibly insightful that she can get away with viewing the dullness of life through rose-coloured glasses. I remember the first time I listened to this album - I was catching a train home after a big night out, hung-over and alone, and for some reason it perfectly suited the situation. This is because Barnett’s lyrics are like the thoughts you have when you have a quiet moment alone just to think about things, like when you’re in the shower, or at a cafe waiting for a friend.
The track ‘Dead Fox’ is the perfect example of this. Barnett starts off by describing how she’s skeptical about buying organic vegetables when “a little pesticide can’t hurt.” But then in the next verse she illustrates a scene where she is driving down the Hume highway seeing all the roadkill and large trucks and wonders if everything’s worth it “to bring us the best price.”
The first single off the album, ‘Pedestrian At Best’, is a fantastic paradox - it’s about her insecurities as an artist and yet it is arguably one of her best songs, being featured on sites like Pitchfork. In the song she says that if she’s placed on a pedestal she’ll only disappoint, but in doing so she has done the complete opposite and impressed us all with a fun, head-banging anthem.
However, Barnett’s greatest challenge is to win over the overseas market. This is mostly because they won’t have the same nostalgia and reaction as Australians do to references like vegemite toast and shark culling. Despite this, she is killing it in the US with a recent performance on Ellen (after already appearing on Jimmy Fallon last year) and at SXSW Festival in Austin where she charmed audiences and won the 2015 Grulke Prize for best Developing Non-US Act.
Now with her Australian tour kicking off this month it seems like nothing can stop Courtney Barnett. We have fallen in love with her witty and profound tunes to the point that she has become a national treasure and is probably deserving of the next Australian knighthood (c’mon Tony, step up!). Hopefully as she grows as an artist her low-key instrumentation can blossom without taking our attention away from the star of her show - the lyrics.
Written by Sam Pfister
Artist: Courtney Barnett
Album: Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit
Release date: March 20th 2015
To catch Courtney Barnett during her Australian tour, click here for dates.