Courtney Barnett – Sometimes I Sit and Think and Sometimes I Just Sit
Released: March 20, 2015
2015 needs Courtney Barnett.
So far the Best albums of the year have been Kendrick Lamar’s brilliant but heavy To Pimp a Butterfly and Sufjan Steven’s brilliant but heavy Carrie & Lowell. Despite their differences, both albums deserve your unbroken concentration to appreciate. These dsude mean serious business and, sure, they’ve never been better but it’s some seriously heavy content to casually jam in my car. Both albums feel like work; really emotionally satisfying and intellectually challenging work but I still feel like I need to clock out once they are finished. Carrie & Lowell just about brings me to tears every time I hear it and To Pimp A Butterfly is such a massive and heady undertaking that it sometimes takes me two days to get through the whole album. I have developed a profound appreciation and love for both of these albums over the past few months but if we are being honest, they are not very much fun.
Enter Courtney Barnett.
Her debut album Sometimes I Sit and Think and Sometimes I Just Sit, is a casual indie guitar rock album driven by a mundane stream of daily narratives infused with dead pan comedy. It’s charming in the quirkiest kind of way, generally sunny, occasionally gritty and I just love it.
Sometimes I Sit and Think and Sometimes I Just Sit aims low and tremendously overachieves. On the ferocious riff-driven lead single “Pedestrian at Best”, Barnett howls:
“Put me on a pedestal and I’ll only disappoint you”
It’s the classic under-promise-over-deliver strategy and it never gets old. Later, on “Kim’s Caravan”, a noisy, sprawling progressive dirge, Barnett sings:
“Don’t ask me what I really mean,
I am just a reflection”
Everything is on the surface of this record but nothing is superficial. Her narratives are not cosmic emotional metaphors, they are unfiltered experience that offer their own meaning. The sunny suburban home search of “Depreston” perfectly highlights Barnett’s strengths; Hold Steadyesque talk-singing supported with bright melodies, and paradoxically jaded optimism. As she visits a potential new home, she finds the haunting remnants of the deceased owner and ends the song with this repeated chorus:
“If you’ve got a spare half a million,
You could knock it down and start rebuilding”
The line is delivered with a beautiful mix of naivety and sarcasm. Its a perfect articulation of my own 20-something experience. I’m no longer young enough to be unconditionally optimistic but not worn down enough to stop dreaming entirely. Further evidence that Courtney Barnett is the voice of the not-quite-jaded-yet-but-slowly-getting-there generation can be found on “Nobody Really Cares If You Don’t Go To The Party”. It’s a noisy rock track with a chorus that laughably laments
“I wanna go out but I wanna stay home”
Barnett’s music is unabashedly relatable and off handedly hilarious. Sometimes I Sit and Think and Sometimes I Just Sit is worthy of comparisons to the elite class of indie rockers so here it goes: this album sounds like Pavement’s perennial masterpiece Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain with a little bit of The Hold Steady and Cake thrown in for flavor. It never takes itself too serious but it never feels too much like a joke either. Courtney Barnett has a firm handle on how to balance pop sensibilities with distortion pedals and she knows that melody makes it all come together. Sometimes I Sit and Think and Sometimes I Just Sit is not be the best or most important album of 2015, but it may end up as my favorite.
Top Tracks: “Pedestrian at Best”, “Depreston”, “Kim’s Caravan”