Aussie Courtney Barnett‘s debut album Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit takes a free association approach to songwriting that captures the frantic energy of Barnett’s performance and remains unpredictable enough to remain intriguing throughout.
“Elevator” tells the story of an office worker’s mental breakdown that leads to him staring over an edge of a building and contemplating jumping off. Barnett’s rather bleak recitation remains characteristically upbeat regardless of the subject matter. The instrumentation in “Elevator” is perhaps the best driving force of the track, putting a certain compelling momentum behind her vocals. “An Illustration of Loneliness (sleepless in New York)” maps out the experience of a rambling mind that will not quiet and keeps you up late into the early morning. Barnett’s own ramblings are integrated into a solid performance along with a heavier guitar sound fitting the piece well.
“Small Poppies” is a more conventional track that utilizes reverb heavy guitar riffs and tremelo to create an early 60’s sound. “Depreston” is a more minimalistic track about the mundane process of moving and looking at houses. The snapshots of others’ lives that we get through the examination of their living space when not present is an intriguing slice of life moment definitively caught in “Depreston.” “Dead Fox” takes Barnett’s ADD songwriting to an extreme, drifting from thoughts on produce to hayfever. “Dead Fox” is a strange (and that’s saying something for this album) track and gives a look into Barnett’s daily life. “Kim’s Caravan” is a more contemplative and slow track that is a darker toned meditation on one’s sense of self. The downtrodden tempo and purposeful instrumental buildup of the track make it the most powerful statement on the album. Clocking in at over six minutes it is the longest as well and Barnett’s wailing feedback laden riffs push the song to where it needs to be.
Barnett is definitely unique and has found a style that fits her creative sensibilities quite well. However one major detraction that I have against the album is that she does not push past her comfort zone and many of the songs come out sounding samey. “Kim’s Caravan” however is a great example of what can come of Barnett trying something different and hopefully it is indicative of her future work.