Courtney Barnett has mastered the art of small talk, set to the disembodied sound of her guitar, her duet partner as those stumbling guitar riffs would disintegrate without her lazy, accented talk-singing to run alongside them. Sometimes I Just Sit And Think, Sometimes I Just Sit is the musical incarnation of her mental diary.
Sometimes is Barnett’s debut full-length, modestly claiming the spotlight from its critically acclaimed predecessor, her double EP, The Double EP: A Sea Of Split Peas. Each track peeks around the edges, dipping its toes in before diving in headfirst, pulling the listener in with it. If Peas was just testing the waters, Sometimes is taking swimming lessons. The Aussie songstress has certainly become more daring, in her own quiet way, and that’s evident in the ambitious aggression, as well as other ventures into the emotions that accompany everyday life, present in these songs.
“Pedestrian At Best”, one of the singles from the album, harnesses that casually aggressive energy we find in 90s riot grrrl acts. Which is obscenely out of character for sleepy versed Courtney Barnett. And it works so well because of that. The shock value that comes with the heavy, self-deprecating and anti-capitalist lyrics, and the thrumming, heavy-footed guitar resonates in your bones as she humbly repeats, “Put me on a pedestal, and I’ll only disappoint you.” How wrong she is there.
The second single, “Depreston”, offers a humbling introspection on what the lives of the past owners of homes leave behind. Though we’ve caught glimpses of the inquisitive, pensive Courtney before, “Depreston” really is Courtney at her core, the lyrics considerate yet flighty, derailing as her distracted mind wanders from pondering the history and life of a house’s previous owner, examining photographs and tiny decorative details, into her considering the cost of tearing down the house and rebuilding.
And as singles are singles for a reason, it’s no surprise these two are some of the strongest tracks on the album. But Sometimes truly shines in its areas that, on the surface, appear to be lacking in ambition; those sticky-notes of songs possibly added as an afterthought. They offer us an intimate exploration into the depths of Barnett’s songwriting process.
“Aqua Profunda!” is repetitive in an almost maddeningly simple fashion, and garners its charm in the way Barnett transforms a yarn about a trip to the swimming pool into a delightful two minute long song that engrosses you completely.
Sometimes I Just Sit And Think, Sometimes I Just Sit is her declaration of who she is as an artist. We’ve already grown accustomed to her clever yet glib lyricism and talk-singing style, and this album is further proving that what you see with Courtney Barnett is what you get. And what you get is absolutely delightful.