25 April 2015

Courtney Barnett - Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit

Australia - a country on the other side of the world from me, a places that looks amazing in pictures, full of lots of creatures (some nice, some not so nice) and home to a really strange, but beautiful rock scene that always seems to have something interesting going on. Over the past few months, the name Courtney Barnett has been cropping up a lot; it has also been suggested that I see what her album is like.  This is the debut album from the 27 year old lady who has been getting the attention of the American press and used to play in the Immigrant Union with Brent DeBoer from The Dandy Warhols.  With three EP's released before this album, she has been getting quiet the reputation.  Before I move on, I want to talk about the cover; the cover is very simplistic and does have that indie chic vibe about it, it is a straight forward cover that will have people with OCD going crazy as the colours go between the lines.  It looks like a rough design that looks as if it was the basic idea, but then it looked so go that the lady decided to stick with it.  I like the basic nature of it, it does not give away too much of what the music is about and it is not just a random band photo.  Anyway, time to find out what the music is all about....

Starting the album is "Elevator Operator" which comes across as a modern take on the works of Lou Reed and Velvet Underground, but with a lot less pretentious musing (look, I love both Lou Reed solo stuff and Velvet Underground - it does not mean I do see it for what it is, it is part of the charm).  It has a story telling narrative of a man trying to escape his life (not through suicide, but through viewing the world in a different perspective).  It is a good opening, it does sound a bit like "Waiting for My Man", but again that is not a bad thing - it is a good piece of storytelling.  The second track is called "Pedestrian At Best" which seems to bring out the inner punk of Ms Barnett; sounding like a long lost Elastic track that has just been discovered, it is all spiky, loud guitars, indie sensibilities with a huge dose of humour and irony at its heart.  It is not as charming as "Elevator Operator" if I am honest, but it is a different beast; it is an inward monologue with a sense of danger - it is just as good but a totally different style of song.  The third song is called "An Illustration of Loneliness (Sleepless in New York)" is another rambling tune, I really love the style that is actually out of step with the faceless chameleons that grace the charts.  It is not something that has not been done before, but in these times it is really refreshing and so far it is holding its own.  The fourth track is actually a game changer for this album; the song is called "Small Poppies" and this blues number has a soul that would charm the most stern and feral beast into a state of wonder, this is a storming number that makes the hair on my neck stand up - it is a great song that keeps the album going and the solo is fantastic.

Keeping the mellow vibe and slow nature going, "Depreston" starts off with a plea for love and companionship; whilst one person is wanting to broaden their horizons and the new home is a house of depressive emptiness.  It has a slightly country vibe to the sound and goes along nicely, it is not as engaging as the opening four tracks if I am honest but it is not a bad number at all.  The next number is called "Aqua Profunda!" which all about finding adventures in embarrassment in a local swimming pool.  We all have a story when we have been distracted and done something silly in front of a person we want to impress; the track itself reminds me of early Liz Phair, it is has a lazy tone which is charming on the ears.  When I say I lazy, I mean it is not in any hurry; it might be a short track, but it is a good (albeit one that sounds as if it is being done with the minimal effort - and sounding so good too).  The seventh number is called "Dead Fox" which goes back to the rambling sequence of event, the music is very gentle on the ear and the Lou Reed comparisons are starting to form in my head again.  I like this song, it does not exactly explode like a supernova; but it has something else about it, something that keeps this album going along very nicely.  After this we are introduced to "Nobody Cares If You Don't Go to the Party" which is about opposites attracting, wanting to have your cake and eat it all at the same time; this has a punk and psychedelic feeling about it, the contradictions of styles and meanings to the number are massive; it is one of the more out and out rock tracks here and it adds a huge ball of energy to the record - another good track here.

"Debbie Downer" is a song which for me could have come straight out of the 60's, musically it is simpler garage rock and has a great organ sound to the tune; lyrically it is about being liked and paranoia, it is a decent number but I found that I could not warm to it.  Nothing really wrong going on here, but nothing that makes me as excited as the other songs on the album.  The penultimate number is "Kim's Caravan" which starts with strange noises from a guitar which fade in slowly, being helped with cymbals and a bass guitar showing the way; the build is slow and the music is haunting, the lyrical content is fantastic and the harrowing quality to the song is really good.  There is just one issue, which is Ms Barnett's voice on the song; it does not match the drama that is going on here during the verse.  The beat poet sections that work so well on "Elevator Operator", feel clumsy on this number; which is a shame as the later section of the album when the music sounds like a tidal wave hitting over the audience (and where she is delivering the passion to the number) is really top draw stuff.  It could have been the song of the album, but alas it is not to be.  Ending the album is acoustic "Boxing Day Blues" which is a gentle number about that has a slow vocal delivery mixing up the lyrics which could have so many different meanings that a Rubik cube genius would have to take a lie down after trying to figure it out.  It ends the album really well, not going out with a whimper, but not with some sort of hipster wall of guitar noise.

Overall, this is a really interesting and quirky record; there is something different about this that works for the best majority of the album.  With a more off the wall feeling to the record, the beat poet/Lou Reed ramblings are charming and sound as if Ms Barnett is letting the stream of consciousness fall from her mind as rain falls from the sky.  When it does not work, it hinders the record; such as on "Kim's Caravan"; but it does not stop this being an interesting and charming album that is actually worth the praise that it is receiving. 

7.5 out of ten - This is good and well worth a check

Top track - Elevator Operator

You can purchase the album from Amazon here

You can visit the Courtney Barnett website here

You can stream the album from Spotify here

If you use Deezer, here is a link for you

For people that use Tidal, here is one for you guys

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