Courtney Barnett "Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit"

An impressive debut from an Australian songwriter who is never at a loss for words.

Courtney Barnett never seems to be at a loss for words. Even when life presents complicated situations she’s able to express her confusion in a most prolific manner.

Although her debut album (she’s released a number of singles and EPs) was inspired in part by her concern for the Great Barrier Reef, most of her songs reveal a young woman trying to absorb the world around her and her reactions to it.

Barnett began playing around her native Melbourne with the garage band Rapid Transit. The raw aspects of her songs reflect that experience. She graduated to guitarist in Immigrant Union a country-psych band founded by former Dandy Warhol drummer Brent DeBoer. Again you can hear the influence weave throughout the release, but the biggest benefit of that stint was the connection with DeBoer, who drums on her album.

Barnett’s EPs got attention for the rapid fire lyrics, her blasé staccato delivery, and morbidly funny approach to dire situations. Her cleverly titled “Avant Gardener” captured the panic that ensued following a near-death asthma attack following her attempts to create an organic garden. Therein lies the delight of listening to this album. Even when taking on dark topics Barnett entertains us with her droll approach and imaginative wordplay. It’s worth pulling out the lyric sheet but you may find yourself distracted by her melodies which range from surf guitar ramblers to wall rattling rockers.

Listening to Barnett sing is like getting an invitation to crawl into the head of a smart, funny, curious young woman. Her stream-of conscious meanderings explore daily events, note random details, and capture musings on relationships. The album’s first single “Pedestrian at Best” is a song about over-thinking – an apt choice as an introduction. “Elevator Operator” is a lovingly rendered character sketch of a non-descript twenty-something who is in search of who he will be.

Barnett is more than adept at playing her left-handed guitar. Her band is tight and expertly stretches from punk, to surf, to country, to pop. Barnett’s vocals are unpretentious and a bit deadpan. Although she’s been compared to Bob Dylan, Lou Reed, Joni Mitchell, and Nirvana her approach is more akin to rap. Her rhyme-schemes are rapid paced with unusual phrasing.

Rosemary Welsch (The Afternoon Mix)

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