Courtney Barnett offers unique outlook on life on debut album

By Troy Kowalchuk

(Aurelien Guichard)
(Aurelien Guichard/flickr)

“Sometimes I Sit and Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit,” the debut album from Australian singer-songwriter Courtney Barnett, is less an album than a critique on modern day society and its conventional views. Released on March 20, the album analyzes the problems created by those views and offers solutions through Barnett’s spunky yet endearing lyrical tone.

Barnett’s often-sarcastic vocals and her lackadaisical-sounding tracks make the album a hilarious critique of the problems in society. Issues that are difficult to bring up in casual conversation are the same sort that Barnett blissfully references as if they are nothing.

The album opens with “Elevator Operator,” the tale of 20 year-old Oliver Paul. A young man working at a place called the Nicholas Building, he struggles to find meaning in his job. Here, Barnett plays as a sort of savior to Paul, instructing him to not jump off the roof of his building. She is encouraging, reminding him that he is young and has a life ahead of him.

What makes the track exciting is how it is displayed to the listener. Barnett replicates the monotonous routine of a nine-to-five job with a simple repetitive beat. She repeats it for several verses, making the song feel as stuck as Paul.

Yet when Barnett breaks through to Paul, the song changes. She makes the beat more dynamic and cheerful. Barnett controls her lyrics with her music, having them work together in a perfect harmony.

Many people struggle to find meaning in their job or even their life as a whole. They may feel as if they are just ants and that there is pointlessness to their daily lives. Barnett manages to critique the monotony of daily life, but at the same time creates a positive outlook with her charming rhymes and voice.

The title of “Depreston” is a play on words, discussing the Preston suburb of Melbourne. Here she is brought on a house-hunting mission to a suburb that on the outset seems quite depressing. And though the surroundings leave quite a bit to be desired, Barnett looks at the house she wants to buy and chooses to focus on its more positive aspects.

Barnett looks at the complexities that affect this generation and makes them look simple and fixable. Barnett looks at how people choose to linger and view the world with such pessimism, and strikes against it with her bluntness. On “Small Poppies,” for instance, she chooses to accept her flaws and understand that she will only grow better with time.

Barnett looks at life in a way any person should. She looks at it mostly with fun, with love and with optimism. What’s more is that Barnett puts her life right inside the listener. She creates an intimate vibe throughout her debut album, making it an incredibly charming effort.

On “Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit,” Barnett is being herself. Barnett has claimed her life as her own, and is unapologetic about the person she has become. She is not afraid to stand up and have an audible voice against those who may try to stop her, but at the same time, she gives a voice to problems that are so often brushed aside.

The album is a charming 11-track LP that shows people to not stress about the little things and to take life in their own way. A lot can be taken from this album, and Barnett teaches her lessons to the listener in a fun and enchanting way.

Troy Kowalchuk can be reached at [email protected][liveblog]