Melbourne native Courtney Barnett released her debut full-length album Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit last week. Listen to the full album stream above.
At first glance, the album might come across as apathetic. With song titles such as "Dead Fox" and "Nobody Really Cares If You Go to The Party," the listener might think that Courtney Barnett put out a sad-core album. But those superficial observations do no justice to the songs' thoughtful complexity.
Sometimes I Sit and Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit is far from apathetic. The album tackles a diverse range of social topics including environmentalism, gentrification, and poverty. Barnett provides descriptive insight into the roadblocks that an intelligent twenty-something might face, and she does it with rebellious anger and wit.
On all accounts, this is a deeply intimate and personal album. In "Pedestrian at Best," Barnett delves into self-loathing and quarter-life existentialism. She tackles social anxiety, feelings of shame, loneliness, and inadequacy with such candor and vividness that the listener can't help but be pulled into some dark places with her.
The lyrical word painting that pervades the album is nothing short of masterful. Barnett has the ability to take a mundane environment and ascribe vivacity to it. "Depreston" is a clarion call to address the effects of gentrification. Yet, she achieves this simply by describing the items left behind by the previous tenant. The lyrics in any given song never feel overwhelming or poorly executed, which is impressive considering the high volume of lyrical content.
Barnett has an innate ability to alternate between pressing issues and humorous self-deprecation. In a seemingly innocuous moment, she'll jab the listener with something thought provoking. In "Aqua Profunda!" -- a comedic track about failing to impress an attractive swimmer at her pool -- she manages to sneak in political snark with the lyrics, "My lack of athleticism, sunk like a stone / Like a first owner's home loan."
The album's musical style parallels that of a righteously angry version of Cake. She uses a lot of spoken word, backed by standard rock instruments. The album walks a fine line between mellow indie sensibilities and alternative rock. If it went too far in either direction, the album might feel tacky and overproduced. Barnett's approach creates a more potent and challenging album for her listener.
Courtney Barnett's gift for wry, unabashed storytelling lends an insight into what troubles a socially and comically aware 27 year old. Her commentary often deals specifically with her native Australia, but all of her concerns are ultimately universal. Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit is a runner for the best debut album of the year so far, and likely will still be considered so come awards season.
For Courtney Barnett's latest music, news, and tour dates, check out her Zumic artist page.