Album Review: Courtney Barnett – Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Other times I Just Sit

“Any of you guys hear of this Courtney Barnett character? Apparently, she’s a big deal? Or something. I dunno, I’ve been living under a granite object (aka “a rock”), for the past few years. But that doesn’t matter. I hate hype. Hate it with every inch of my soul. If there’s a blog that’s posting about you that has over 100 likes on the ol’ FB, I don’t want to know about you. If you’ve played a festival that’s isn’t located in a gutter, then I don’t want to hear your music. If, God forbid, you appear on some sort of television show, and bring millions of housewives to tears with a beautiful tune about house hunting, then you are practically Satan.” – Dickhead, 2015

Look, let’s put aside the fact that Courtney Barnett has led to a watershed moment for Australian music. She’s appeared on Jimmy Fallon and Ellen, played huge festivals like Glastonbury and Coachella, and she’s signed a deal with Mom + Pop Records in the US. All this, and she still rocks an East Brunswick All Girls Choir t-shirt. She’s a legend, for sure, straight up and down, representing Australian talent and potential whilst unleashing all her own remarkable talents upon the world. She’s a great songwriter, a fantastic guitarist, and she’s got The Drones’ Dan Luscombe onside. But is that what makes a great record? Like, you’ve got all these ingredients for a great recipe, but does that mean something half decent is gonna pop out of the oven? Fucking oath it does.

The best thing about Courtney Barnett is her ability to keep things exciting and diverse, her originality spread evenly throughout her record. Take “Pedestrian At Best” – call her what you will, but Courtney Barnett is nothing but self-aware. Shit, she’s dedicated her lead single to all the @h8rs out there, and it’s the angriest we’ll probably ever come to seeing her, not to mention one hell of a song. The passion gives her a platform to stand and shout from, to feign mediocrity whilst punching out a gut-busting riffs that rival any thing that Chisel came out with. It’s not the only time Courtney brings up her uncertainty, with “Small Poppies” appearing with fantastic lines like “Oh, the calamity, I wanna go to sleep for an eternity…Oh, the humanity, I wanna disappear into obscurity

Not that her newfound fame has given Courtney reason to move away from her most rewarding aspect, the ability to remark upon modern Australian life with a certain poetry that belies Banjo Patterson channeling Tennessee Williams. She told the small crowd gathered at her album preview that the track “Aqua Profounda” was about a local pool, and album standout “Depreston” is, at least superficially, about the struggling Melbourne suburb of Preston. But it’s all a facade – Courtney Barnett is talking to the average Australian, indeed the average global struggler. She might be plainly talking about the second best city in Australia (FUCK YEAH, SYDNEY!), but the pains of being constantly unsure aren’t reserved to places with shitty coffee. This is the kinda ideology that permeates the record and by the pubes of Brad Pitt, it works out well.

Courtney Barnett was always going to be making a fairly large statement with her debut album, and the pressure was enormous. And when watching her perform recently, there was a certain skepticism as to how the album would turn out. And sure, she hasn’t reinvented the wheel, but she’s done what she does incredibly well, and with the sort of casual intelligence that can only be applauded. Get on this fucking album. Get around it. Celebrate it. Enjoy it. Seek out her billowing guitars in “Elevator Operator” and “Dead Fox”. Cuddle next to her more-soothing-than-a-six-pack-of-Lozengers voice. Get comfortable with her, and settle in. Ironically, the last lines of the record are, “Lover, I’ve got no idea“. Yeah, well, I’ve got an idea Courtney, I’ve got an idea that you’ve kicked it outta the fucking park.

There seemed to be a few folks out there who have begrudgingly laid down their respect for Courtney Barnett, for the attention she’s brought to #realmusicdownunda. But this record gives the last remaining doubters the fuel they need to remove the ‘begrudging’ part of that sentence. We needed a champion, and CB pulled through with flying colours. ‘Sometimes…’ is a fucking great record, and any reservations can be stoically erased. Nup, get fucked, this is sick, fuck you all.

‘Sometimes I Sit and Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit’ comes out on Milk! Records on March 20th.

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New: Courtney Barnett – Depreston

Courtney Barnett begins her latest single, “Depreston” with the line, “We don’t have to be around all these coffee shops”, which has to be the most un-Melbourne phrase ever uttered. No perfect flat white with a drizzled foam heart resting flamboyantly on the top? No patronising stares from other tables at how untidy your overalls are? NO KALE CHIPS????

No, Ms. Barnett is decidedly glum on “Depreston”, a tune that she’s hauled out to uproarious applause on her most recent live shows. “Depreston” seems to be all about manoeuvring away from teenage naivety, and all the depressing realities that come with the gesture. From trying to find a suitable house, to the hopeful refrain of, “If you have a spare half million, we could knock it down and start rebuilding”, Ms. Barnett takes a gorgeously restrained and powerful approach that is in stark contrast to first single “Pedestrian At Best”. It’s that kind of diversity (whilst never losing its poetic layman-ism) that has made Courtney Barnett such a strong contender for Ozzie Muso of Forever.

Video: Courtney Barnett – Pedestrian At Best

Let’s address the elephant in the room here. Yes, Courtney Barnett is dressed as a sad clown that everybody hates that’s wearing a badge that says “Clown of 2013”. Her enormously heralded combined 1st and 2nd EP won the praise of the world came out in 2013, and she was shot from local hero to upstanding musical representative of Australia. Do we have any Sherlock’s in the room who would like to take a stab as to what this might possibly signify?

For those still in the wave of euphoria known as “New Courtney Barnett!!??”, the chorus blatantly screams, “Put me on a pedestal, and I’ll only disappoint you/Tell me I’m exceptional, I promise to exploit you“. You could have just ingested forty blocks of uranium, and you’d still understand what she was getting at.

Let’s make it clear: Courtney Barnett is fucking sick, and this song is no exception. If anything, it shows her getting angrier and tougher than she’s been before, and the thrusting, rugged guitars spindling out of control pave the way for Barnett to shout and scream like any normal person who’s had to put up with Melbourne weather would.

And that’s why we, or at least I, am in love with her. Her normality and forever groundedness is what makes her so appealing to make the people’s champion, especially combined with her exceptional ability to rip the spleen off a guitar. Anyone trying to add pyrotechnics and strippers to Courtney Barnett’s performance is going to be disappointed, because they’ve clearly missed the point. Australia’s got its own rockstar, and she’s fine the way she is, kicking arse a million times more so than Poison ever did.

Her debut album, Sometimes I Sit and Think, And Other Times I Just Sit’ comes out March 23rd. Fuck. Yes.

Gig Review: Courtney Barnett

Thursday 9th October @ Oxford Art Factory

Our Courtney. How good does it feel to be able to say that? No matter what those ‘Muricans, or the Pom Poms whisper into our ears, with their trivial on-hit wonders, we can stand tall and yell, “Have you checked this shit out? It’ll blow yer fucking socks off!”. After what seems like a lifetime, we have a musician that we can champion, who completely encapsulates all the great and depressing things about living a modern life in Australia.

It was with great happiness that I got to head along to one of Ms. Barnett’s many sold-out shows on her recent national tour. My heart was so swollen with pride, that I couldn’t even squeeze through the doors of the venue. By the time someone applied enough buttery lubricant to my hips and I plopped into the space, Castlemaine native D.D Dumbo had begun his set. I never quite understood how this bloke managed to score himself a record deal with 4AD, one of the most revered indie labels of all time. On record, D.D Dumbo can come off a little slow from the mark, and his swirling songs sometimes just don’t hit any real heights. I mean, the bloke is good, but is he that good?

Quick answer is that old mate is a musical genius. Harking from a place that is well regarded for fuck-knows-what, D.D Dumbo reverses things by creating a sonic bubble around himself, and then drawing in everyone around him into said bubble. What occurs is that you become lost in a sea of peddles and loops, of 12 string-guitars and drum patterns. You can’t help but want to shake your hips to a song like “Tropical Oceans”, a funky jam dressed up as indie excellence. And when you get to witness all the cogs and gears falling into place so correctly, a newfound respect worms its way into the hearts of all in attendance. New track and closer “Brother” was both thankfully not a Matt Corby cover, and one of the most sincerely beautiful and expertly pulled off things I’ve seen in recent memory.

20 minutes after the musical maestro has left the stage, and Courtney Barnett and her band attend the stage, immediately plugging in their guitars and beginning a wailing, rock-centric set. The music was fucking loud, and not in an obtrusive way. It picked you up and cradled you, instantly making you feel welcome and part of Barnett’s peculiarly fantastic mindset. There were solos and noise crunches, each bar being belted out like someone was trying to win a belching contest. Even quieter moments in the set, like the emotion-crushing “Anonymous Club”, which on record is an acoustic, sentimental heart-ripper, had a little spunk and flair on the night.

New songs were debuted and each track took the crowd by storm. Trying out new stuff is always tricky business, but getting to hear what Barnett has in store for her LP made the majority salivate at the mouth like her guitar was an airborne injection of rabies. It seemed strange though, that a lot of Barnett’s infamous semi-awkward and hilarious stage banter was missing for the main duration of the set. Instead, the band and herself swiftly cruised through a packed-out set of her material. Of course, the most recognised was initial set-closer “Avant-Gardener”, which caused a near-stroke in the more ecstatic Barnett fans.

About a minute of footstomping and wild cries for return, and Barnett’s back on stage in solo mode, delivering a new cut entitled “Depresston”, about how depressing it is to go house-hunting in Preston. Although it was the first time the track adorned my ears, hearing the now-legendary combination of Barnett’s lyrics and intimate guitar skills. Although booze has covered up my exact remembrance of the lyrics, I can straight up tell you that you’re going to melt like I did when this song is officially released. Shit, it’ll probably drive up the housing prices in Preston as well. Win-win! And when you follow up a sobering tale like that with two of Barnett’s most dapper and infectious songs “Pickles From The Jar” and “History Eraser”, you’ve got so much of a winning combination going on, it feels like all the world’s lotteries just turned up in your favour.

In all honesty, Courtney Barnett is so perfect because she strikes the perfect balance between two worlds that are extraordinarily apart, a real Hannah Montana. She’s part rock star, with flashing lights, smoke curling all over her stage, and shredding guitar solos. And then, she’s part girl next door, your mate from high school who you could always trust to pull out a whimsical comment. She’s your bong-smoking roommate, and she’s a world-conquering stage master. She can rock a t-shirt and then turn a guitar into her bitch. She perfectly straddles the mainstream and the underground, the Kim Gordon of our generation, the coolest woman to grace the planet. And she’s Aussie. Fuck oath.

 

New: Courtney Barnett-Pickles From the Jar

Oh, Courtney, can’t you release a shitty song so that it makes you seem a little more human? Actually, that’s a paradox – the reason we, Australia, love Courtney Barnett is her overwhelming normality, which she translates into gorgeous songs.

It’s been a while since we heard an original from the Melbourne wonder, and the fact there is new material makes me froth at the mouth like a rabid dog with a pre-release copy of Courtney Barnett’s debut album (I seriously can’t wait for that album to be released).

This new track ‘Pickles in the Jar’ channels the best of the Violent Femmes, a stringy guitar that wraps itself around Courtney’s festival-ready lyrics. You can more than easily picture a call and response scenario, 50,000 fans gleefully shouting back, ‘I say Hugh, you say Grant/I say pot, you say plant/ You’re from Adelaide, I’m from Hobart!’ Stay awesome Courtney!

Video: Courtney Barnett-Anonymous Club

Courtney Barnett is, right now, one of Australia’s biggest exports. She’s adorning all sorts of big-shot lineups like Coachella, and she hasn’t even released a fucking album yet.

But why would you go to all the effort of writing, producing, and creating an album when you’ve got gung-ho beauties like ‘Annonymous Club’ in the bank? This song is so subtly beautiful and nuanced, it’s more gorgeous than watching a bluebird take its first breath.

The video offers a similar aesthetic. It’s a black-and-white animation, featuring a bunch of lonely, teary creatures. It’s haunting and stunning, incredibly simple but damningly effective. Good on ya Barnesy.

Hand Games Mixtape #17: BEST OF 2013 (free download)

Oh shit, another best of 2013 thing from this pile of excrement. You see, you’re wrong there, because this is a best of 2013 thing from Hand Games, a service that actually knows how shit went down on 2013, and has a bit more of a broader reach than, say, Soundly Sounds.

There is not a single track on the best of mix that shouldn’t be there. From the internationally conquering Jagwar Ma, Courtney Barnett and Fascinator, to local heros like You Beauty and The Preatures. There’s a strong contingent of electronic wonder courtesy of D.D Dumbo, Oisima, Oscar Key Sung and Major Napier, whilst the tribal element is taken care of through Willow Beats and Savoir.

On the wild and loose front, there’s The Growl, Bad//Dreems and Peter Bibby, all bands with that desert spirit running through their veins. But for number 1, in agreement with this own shitty writer’s opinion, TV Colours gets the spot for best song of the year through the monstrous tune of ‘Beverly’.

Man, what a fucking great list right? Pity you can’t download all of that…oh wait, you can, holy shit, send me a link. ^….it’s up the top there, thank me later.

Video: Courtney Barnett-Avant Gardener

The song title alone is enough to be unhealthily infatuated with Courtney Barnett. But once you click that play button, you’re a Barnieber for life. The lyrics of this song are probably the greatest asset, which is saying a lot because this breathy piece of slacker-wonder is straight-up flooring to listen to. There’s a Pulp Fiction reference, musings on meth labs, and nods of appreciation for the unsung ambo’s. So how do you appropriate an infectious garage-pop song with super casual delivery into a visual medium? You have a tennis match of course! It makes sense- a super chilled atmosphere (Leyton Hewitt doesn’t feature, so the insistent cry of ‘CMOOOOOOOON!’ doesn’t interfere with the casual nature of the clip), something that shouldn’t be overly interesting (tennis vs. slacker-pop) that inevitably becomes mesmerising, and an overall clean, crisp feel to the entire thing.  With ‘Avant Gardener’ Courtney Barnett may have just made the Australian song of the year.