New Music Monday: Courtney Barnett
It’s that time of year again; Santa Claus is at every mall in the country, movie theaters are all showing Oscar bait, and music bloggers and journalists are publishing their Top Albums of 2015. Not to say we’re above doing a Best of 2015 list by any means, but this week’s New Music Monday is all about one great record we missed at the time of its release earlier this year, Courtney Barnett’s Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit. Out in the US on Mom + Pop Records, Sometimes I Sit… is Barnett’s debut full-length and the follow up to her double EP, A Sea of Split Peas.
What comes across from the opening of the record is Barnett’s ability to tell emotionally compelling stories. Sometimes I Sit… opens with “Elevator Operator,” a song that explains the essentials of its protagonist in the first three lines. Oliver Paul, a twenty-year old with a “thick head of hair worries he’s going bald.” With an infectious melody, the rest of the track details a day in his life in which he decides to play hooky from work. As is often the case with Barnett’s characters, Paul has more than just a small neurosis about losing his hair, later in the song he explains, “I’m not suicidal, I’m just idling insignificantly.”
Less narrative-focused, but equally personal in character is “An Illustration of Loneliness (Sleepless in New York).” The lyrics follow the narrator’s stream of consciousness, which consistently returns to an absent partner. Listeners could pick just about any track of Courtney Barnett’s and find an catchy, eccentric melody, but “An Illustration of Loneliness” is one of the tracks on Sometimes I Sit… where the rhythm section comes alive. Moving at a relaxed pace, Bones Sloane’s bass carries Barrnett’s lyrics forward, allowing both to sink in.
If any track on Sometimes I Sit… is capable of encapsulating the varieties of experience on the record, it is without a doubt “Nobody Really Cares If You Don’t Go to the Party.” The song leads off with earworm of a guitar riff and the drums come right in to back it up. Then Barnett begins singing, a few wry words about a friend (possibly a lover?) who always gets what they want, without ever having to try. The song continues in this vein with its refrain, “I want to go out, but I want to stay home.”
With Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit, Courtney Barnett has proven herself not simply one of the strongest new artists of 2015, but one of the best artists of 2015. Full stop. Need further evidence? The full record is available streaming through Milk Records below.