Courtney Barnett
sometimes i sit and think, and sometimes i just sit


3.5
great

Review

by Matthew Hung USER (15 Reviews)
March 24th, 2015 | 329 replies


Release Date: 03/24/2015 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Oh the humanity

Everyone is probably going to like this album. I try to insulate myself from external opinions before I write reviews but I have a feeling that accolades are going to rain down and a niche for this type of music will be further carved out. Courtney is a unique voice in modern music which will no doubt propel her into the limelight further than a soft spoken girl playing local gigs in Australia could ever imagine; a fact which she acknowledges repeatedly on this album. Most notably, the introspection on “Pedestrian at Best” reveals how she’s going to cope with the expectations and laurels: by doing what she wants to.

And thank god for that. What she brings to the table is nothing technically exceptional, instrumentally astounding, particularly poignant, socially meaningful or vocally stunning. The greatest asset she’s got to present is herself: a witty lyricist, a unique story-teller, painfully likable and most importantly, unabashedly unique. She draws you into her world and it’s so cool and pleasant you don’t want to leave. It is precisely because of these qualities that this album will pick up steam around the interwebs and attract more to the gospel that is Courtney Barnett. Tracks like the opener, “Elevator Operator” is a prime example of how her vivid imagery, exceptional storytelling blends seamlessly with pop sensibilities combine into a lovely tune. “Pedestrian at Best” gets introspective; the tongue comes slightly out of the cheek here: it's more straightforward honesty and more aggressive tone is a bit of a shift in direction for Courtney, but will no doubt be a top hit. But in my humble opinion the real gems on the album can be extracted in “Small Poppies” and “Depreston” where all the best elements of Courtney come together again. The former starts as a beautiful meandering, Courtney letting her melancholy gracefully thread in and out. It’s subtle tension and emotions gracefully build and release organically without sacrificing the characteristic atmosphere. Simple self-deprecation “I used to hate myself but now I think I’m alright” or “I don’t know quite who I am but oh man am I’m tryin’… I make mistakes til I get it right” frame the song perfectly and endear the listener with charms she alone possesses. And Depreston is one a fantastic and strange little track about buying a house which exudes personality and lets her sharp wit and simple, driven lyricism carry the song. So I’m really glad that I get more kindling to stoke the fires of my huge crush on Courtney Barnett.

And yet. When I first heard, and subsequently fell in love with A Sea of Split Peas, I was ecstatic. But this elation was tinged with a bit of sadness. The album itself was gorgeous, the songwriting was consistently tight, the lyrics witty, brutally honest and introspective in the most relatable way, charming and immersive. All of which could be replicated for years to come. However, it's the rampant idiosyncrasies and frighteningly intimate nature which made the album truly wonderful and would make it nearly impossible to replicate, especially in the face of a wider fan base.

I thought if anyone could do it, it was her. So it is with a mixture of trepidation and anticipation I clicked play when the first track off the new album “Pedestrian at Best” came out. How ironic that would turn out to be. After a few seconds, my heart sank because I knew the magic was not quite there. Not bad per se, but just a little emptier than before. Everything about Sometimes I Sit, is short of A Sea of Split Peas. Particularly after the first five songs, in my crotchety opinion, the album degrades significantly. “Aqua Profunda”, is pleasant and funny enough but is quickly forgettable and insubstantial, which also characterizes some of the latter half. But tracks like “Kim’s Caravan” or “Boxing Day Blues” are downright dreary. “Dead Fox” and “Nobody Cares if You Go to the Party” really rub me in the wrong way. The lyricism on these are just not as sharp as you would expect, the sentiments are rather annoying at times and the way the tracks come together is just not quite up to the standard I would expect.

However, the bulk of my complaint aren't with the individual songs. The songwriting across the board is not nearly as strong. Tracks like “History Eraser” or “Avant Gardener” or my personal favorite, “Anonymous Club”, are all tracks which are both instantly recognizable and memorable. There are some good tracks on this new album but nothing as definitive. The deeper cuts are not comparable and while the sonic progression is evident in its punkier mood, I think the best moments on this new album are when it channels the old Courtney. Speaking of which, I felt a lingering sense of deja vu at times, as though I've heard the melodies, phrases or hooks from the last album. However the most dire omission is the character and immersion that personified and glorified Split Peas. Are these elements there? Yes, which is why people will find this album appealing. But it no longer feels as intimate or personal. Split Peas felt like Courtney was addressing the listener as a journal of sorts, unfiltered, original and confidential. There's just something about the new album which creates a bit of distance, like moving out of a cozy little coffee shop to a bar. Which is wholly understandable and sensible for the long term, but takes away something unique which I'd hoped would be more essential.

So while I’m glad that this album maintains some of it's established identity, I fear there’s something beautiful and personal missing. Like a friend who you've reconnected with and who you're still close with but who is less weird than you remember and won’t confide in you the things she used to. Perhaps it’s pure nostalgia blinding me, and I’m glad she’s got a lot more friends now, but I can't shake the feeling that something special is slowly drifting away.



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user ratings (328)
Chart.
3.7
great
other reviews of this album
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Comments:Add a Comment 
JohnnyOnTheSpot
Staff Reviewer
March 24th 2015


6107 Comments


(edit: fixed)

liked the personal element and the analogy at the end of losing an old friend due to change. it's probably been done, but I think you did a good job. not sure how this is still a "great" album though, seeing as you've lost a lot of personal connectivity with this release, but w/e

pos

Ditto
March 24th 2015


10 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Thanks for edits. I was thinking about a 3 but while it's a sizable step down for me, it's a step down from brilliance. It would be unfair to say anything lower as her stuff is still objectively great.

JohnnyOnTheSpot
Staff Reviewer
March 24th 2015


6107 Comments


ah gotcha. the review definitely carried a feeling of disappointment, so i wasn't entirely sure what you wanted to convey at the end. maybe adjust the conclusion so it's more bittersweet and less bitter. your last 2 paragraphs aren't super positive, so it leaves a mixed impression. you could tip the scales slightly and maybe just reiterate the positives at the end so it's clear that it's still great, just not as great

NorthernSkylark
March 24th 2015


8529 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

also, someone really needs to fix the title of the album

Digging: Damien Rice - O

Brostep
Emeritus
March 24th 2015


4294 Comments


imo I'd think taking out the (cue dramatic music) bit would make this better but solid review nonetheless. love your tone here.

I'm sure Barnett is a great musician (not quite my style but I can definitely appreciate it) but the Pitchfork Review had a feature on her an issue or two ago which had some of the most infuriatingly smug sentences I've ever read. just could not get past the first page

NorthernSkylark
March 24th 2015


8529 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

i really hoped depreston wasn't the best track on this album. but it probably is so it's a 3.5 or a 4 for me right now



AmericanFlagAsh
March 24th 2015


8376 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

It's a 4 from me. Maybe even a 4.5... I definitely don't think Depreston is the best

Digging: Kevin Abstract - American Boyfriend: A Suburban Love Story

AmericanFlagAsh
March 24th 2015


8376 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

Oh and I disagree with your stuff about Kim's Caravan and Nobody Cares If... But I'll pos this

NorthernSkylark
March 24th 2015


8529 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

i dunno why but i really like debbie downer

AmericanFlagAsh
March 24th 2015


8376 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

I really like An Illustration Of Loneliness

tommygun
March 24th 2015


26594 Comments

Album Rating: 1.0

this is fucking terrible

NorthernSkylark
March 24th 2015


8529 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

wow

HBFS
March 24th 2015


1330 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Fuck yeah, Courtney. I like this album more than you do, though admittedly I have hometown bias. Not as disappointed as you seem to be: it's about on par with the EP's overall although there are one or two songs I do find pretty lackluster. Some great tunes though - dead fox, depreston, elevator operator and pedestrian at best are probably the standouts.

DaveyBoy
Staff Reviewer
March 24th 2015


22434 Comments

Album Rating: 3.6

I don't usually like these type of reviews, but I don't blame you for going down this route here. I was going to review the LP myself and it would have probably come off as a rambling mess. With Barnett, it's like there's so much to talk about, yet not much to talk about, if that makes any sense whatsoever.



Along the same lines, I'm still not totally sure what I think of the album. It's probably somewhere in between a 3.5 and a 4 though.

tommygun
March 24th 2015


26594 Comments

Album Rating: 1.0

there's nothing to talk about with her though davey lad



she just bangs on about the minutiae of daily life in the most obnoxious shitty talk-singing voice imaginable and that's it really

wwf
March 24th 2015


5277 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

'she just bangs on about the minutiae of daily life in the most obnoxious shitty talk-singing voice imaginable and that's it really'



nah that's grievously oversimplified, I really love the lyrics on this one

DaveyBoy
Staff Reviewer
March 24th 2015


22434 Comments

Album Rating: 3.6

Tommy, you mustn't like any stand-up comedians then.



Even if you don't like the album, there's plenty to talk about. I was more referencing that from a review-writing perspective.





tommygun
March 24th 2015


26594 Comments

Album Rating: 1.0

you're prob right forgive my grumpy old manliness, not enough coffee this morning!



that said jjj have murdered this over the past week and i can't stand it :D

DaveyBoy
Staff Reviewer
March 24th 2015


22434 Comments

Album Rating: 3.6

Yes, just a tad overhyped is this album... But I never mind seeing a local getting some worldwide attention (see blog post from a few weeks back).

mvdu
March 24th 2015


698 Comments


Pretty nice review, but did not enjoy the samples at all. I guess if I can't stand the samples, don't bother with the album?



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