Courtney Barnett Quiet Contemplation
Published Mar 19, 2015Courtney Barnett has been mislabelled a slacker. The Australian musician has made a name for herself over the past few years for her intuitive songwriting, a stream-of-consciousness flow of words that wondrously rushes alongside a current of effortless guitar rock. It's a repose that garnered her first two EPs — later combined as The Double EP: A Sea of Split Peas in 2013 — that very label, but in reality, Barnett's process is more laissez-faire than slacker rock.
"Some people probably just don't get where I'm coming from," Barnett explains, when asked if her deadpan delivery and overall aesthetic has ever rubbed listeners the wrong way. "Sometimes I'm writing songs without considering the outcome and most of the time, the message makes itself apparent later down the line."
Although Barnett's borderline spoken word performances can cause some to scratch their heads, it has worked more to her advantage than against. The Double EP became a catalyst for Barnett's sudden year of touring, completely catching her off guard. "I didn't realize that people would connect with it that way; sometimes when you're at one end of the world, you don't think others would understand your way of thinking."
The months of touring not only allowed Barnett time to cobble together new thoughts for her upcoming official full-length debut, Sometimes I Sit and Think and Sometimes I Just Sit, but it also solidified her roster of in-studio collaborators, her bandmates Dan Luscombe, Bones Sloane and Dave Mudie.
"That was good because we had been playing together so much the year before we recorded, so there was a real sense of understanding between us," Barnett reveals. "We could kind of guess what the other person was going to do before it happened, which was the opposite of the first two EPs, where [they were] recorded with a bunch of different musicians."
The tighter unit definitely paid off on Sometimes I Sit; Barnett's thoughts are presented with more purpose, more firepower, more driving drums and searing guitars. Single "Pedestrian At Best" is a prime example of Barnett's ability to transform fragmented ideas into pure ammunition as she burns you with a line like, "I think you're a joke, but I don't find you very funny." Elsewhere, "An Illustration of Loneliness (Sleepless in NY)" and "Depreston" find Barnett spewing on-the-road observations and "Nobody Really Cares If You Don't Go To The Party" is an up-tempo anthem about not wanting to go out. It takes throwaway thoughts on everyday anxieties and binds them together into Barnett's most blazing and confident work yet, cementing her as an expert wordsmith and great guitarist.
"Songwriting has always been a therapeutic thing for me to get my thoughts straight to paper and understand things," Barnett says of her anxieties, both in life and in relation to her work. "Then on top of that, performing them brings this great sense of release, you're kind of expelling all those bad thoughts from my whole body. I mean, it could go either way, but it feels good to me."