Album: sometimes i sit and think, and sometimes i just sit.
Artist: Courtney Barnett
About: 11 songs; 44 minutes
Choice: Deliberate Obfuscation
How can I not give the highest of praise to an album that has the line “give me all your money, and I’ll make some origami, honey?” Courtney Barnett’s cleverness with lyrics continues in her new album, sometimes i sit and think, and sometimes i just sit. More than any other album this year, this is the one I have most looked forward to listening to. In 2013, I named Courtney Barnett’s double EP release as one of my top ten albums for that year (it was a stretch since it wasn’t truly an album, and several of the songs had been released prior to 2012). But, I loved the songs so much that I felt that they needed to be on my list. Unless something unheard of happens between now and year’s end, this one will be high up on my 2015 list.
The album combines her oh-so-cleverly-wonderful lyrics with a garage rock noise factory and a languid vocal style that is perfect for her Australian accent. I ate this one up, just as I expected that I would.
The album opens with Elevator Operator – a song about a twenty year old who chucks off his tie and work responsibilities and heads to a rooftop at the same time a woman whose “heels are high and her bag is snakeskin; hair pulled so tight you can see her skeleton.” She challenges him not to jump (especially since he has such great skin that she would give anything for), but he comes back at her by saying she seems to be the one there to jump; he is only there because it provides him a real life SimCity vantage point. She tells the tale to a thumping drum and twanging guitars. She rocks it out. She is kind of Lucinda Williams melting into Chrissie Hynde to create the next generation of women rockstars.
Not all of the songs give you the full throttle rock sound. Some have more of a dreamy slowed-down sound. My favorite song from her first EP was Avant Gardener which detailed having a panic asthma attack and the ambulance coming to rescue her. On this album, An Illustration of Loneliness (Sleepless in New York) has a very similar vibe and also has that quieter sound. There is still a grungey guitar line that backs her as she narrates not being able to sleep and finding the cracks in the ceiling as metaphor for the lines in her own palm. She then scares herself by what she sees:
I lay awake at four, staring at the wall
Counting all the cracks backwards in my best French
Reminds me of a book I skim-read in a surgery
All about palmistry, I wonder what’s in store for me
I pretend the plaster is the skin on my palms
And the cracks are representative of what is going on
I lose a breath… my love-line seems intertwined with death
As expected, this album makes me want to pay as much of attention to the words as I do the music. Each of the eleven songs on the album gives the listener a narrative – some silly; some serious. There is a girl trying to impress a boy in a public swimming pool only to end up losing consciousness by trying to hold her breath too long, then, coming to with the boy and his towel gone. Depreston follows her as she takes a look at a suburban home for sale and is overwhelmed by thinking about who lived in the space before. Dead Fox is a take on environmentalism.
Dan did not get as gushy as I did, but he agrees that this is a good listen and Courtney has it going on as a rock-n-roll gal. I could go on and on snipping and pasting lyrics, but I will just cut it here. There are just so many good ones! My advice is to listen to this one!
Next up: Tracker by Mark Knopfler