Courtney Barnett creates excitement out of the mundane with her debut album.
“Oliver Paul, twenty years old, thick head of hair, worries he’s going bald. Wakes up at quarter past nine, fair evades his way down the 96 tram line.” A mundane everyday scene for most, the foundation of an upbeat opening track for Courtney Barnett and her debut album Sometimes I Sit and Think and Sometimes I Just Sit. Much like the tracks that follow, ‘Elevator Operator’ demonstrates Barnett’s ability to turn the seemingly mundane into the underpinnings of a catchy hit.
Barnett hails from Melbourne, Australia and previously played guitar for Rapid Transit and Immigrant Union before establishing her own record label and releasing her debut EP in 2012. I’ve Got a Friend called Emily Ferris propelled Barnett into the limelight in Australia and her popularity has swiftly grown across the globe ever since. In just three short years Barnett has gone from founding her own label to selling out entire theatres throughout the world, and rightly so. Barnett’s uniquely monotonous, deadpan style of delivery sets her apart from her contemporaries. Barnett’s tone is occasionally reminiscent of the Arctic Monkeys’ Alex Turner’s apathetic croon, but with less of an air of distant cool and more of an awkward underdog’s charm.
Barnett’s lyrics not only carry a deadpan and unvaried sound but are often delivered as lengthy, discursive and often sardonic stream of consciousness ramblings. Whilst this may sound like a criticism, anyone who listens to Barnett will quickly realise that her unique style and delivery only serves to work in her favour. Despite having the initiative to start her own record label at 24, critics have taken to describing Barnett’s work as ‘slacker rock’, a fairly fitting label when considering her subject material. ‘Put me on a pedestal and i’ll only disappoint you’ she yells on ‘Pedestrian at Best’, revealing the anxieties of a laid back artist who has been suddenly thrown into limelight.
Barnett has no aspirations to explore love, loss, life or the meaning of it all, preferring to limit her scope to moving house, going swimming, and debating whether she should bother to leave the house for a friend’s party. In a world where celebrities and musical icons are criticised for being detached from the everyday realities that the rest of us face, Barnett’s lyrics are so grounded in tales of day to day millennial life that anyone would have a hard time accusing her of being disconnected. Yet Barnett simultaneously manages to take the listener on wild tangents at the drop of a hat, charting even the most fleeting and trivial thoughts from her daily activities. In doing so, Barnett manages to perfectly capture the thought process of an overactive, unfocused mind.
This all comes accompanied by Barnett and her band’s simplistic yet incredibly catchy guitar work. The whole package comes together perfectly to form a wonderfully captivating first album, which bewitchingly manages to create excitement from even the most mundane of subject matter.
Sometimes I Sit and Think and Sometimes I Just Sit is available now via Milk! Records.