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

by Jim Harris Rating:9.5 Release Date:2015-03-23

What is truly remarkable about Courtney Barnett’s new album, Sometimes I Sit and Think and Sometimes I Just Sit, is that the music is so strong. It’s not only that she sings in that deadpan, talky voice of some of her fashionable contemporaries like Lana Del Rey, Best Coast, Emilie Haines, whomever, but that her guitar-playing and the musical compositions are so strong here. Combine the music with her sharp, slice-of-life, poetic though not pedantic lyrics, reminiscent more of Lou Reed, Warren Zevon, even Anne Sexton than any of her contemporaries, and from the streets of Melbourne arrives a great new artist.

Her lyrics paint wonderfully colorful swaths as she goes more for the interiors than the exteriors, the minutiae, of those moments that interest her best. Observing a man sick in front of his computer, deciding not to go to work who eventually trips on a pot hole. Life. Origami. 

Courtney wraps her mundane, witty, slices of life observed around sassy, Lou Reed-style guitar and punk-inspired rock 'n' roll. The best track, ‘An Illustration of Loneliness (Sleepless in New York)’, conjures up such a flashback to that obscure Jim Carroll Band (remember ‘Catholic Boy’?) that I went scrambling for one of the greatest early 80s punk-grunge albums of all time: I Write Your Name.

And yes, there is that sassy hip-rocking kick of the Dandy Warhols in a couple of Courtney’s songs (‘Debbie Downer’, ‘Elevator Operator’), but listen to the scorching blues in ‘Small Poppies’. If the longest track on the album, and Courtney’s personal favorite, ‘Kim’s Caravan’ doesn’t seem as ominous and atmospheric as some of those old Doors songs (and as musically rich), then you haven’t heard them.

Sometimes I Sit and Think and Sometimes I Just Sit is a scary good album from one of those songwriters you only encounter once every other musical generation. And hopefully she will listen to none of this tripe and limit her appearances on Ellen and NPR, etc, and march existentially forward and keep it coming.

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