Observant Garage Rock
The German poet, Rainer Maria Rilke once said: “If your daily life seems poor, do not blame it; blame yourself, tell yourself that you are not poet enough to call forth its riches; for to the creator there is no poverty and no poor indifferent place.” Maybe he is right. Maybe the most beautiful things come from the most mundane. That is certainly the experiment that Courtney Barnett is trying to explore in her debut album, Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit. Her findings: The mundane can be beautiful, very, very beautiful.
This album has two common threads that run through its eleven songs—Barnett guitar and her nibble abilities for telling truthful stories with a razor sharp wit.
The guitar is often dirty, raspy and unpolished, like a teenage girl playing in her bedroom with the small, terrible amp she got at the guitar store, but the riffs that she creates with them are anything but elementary. On the first single, “Pedestrian at Best” it is feverish and wild as the guitar moves in steps. This fits the mood of the song, as she laments about the complexities of life: “Underworked and oversexed /
I must express my disinterest, / the rats are back inside my head what would Freud have said?”
Similarly, the seemingly unaffected groove of “An illustration of loneliness (sleepless in New York)” with it slick, sneaky riff over the top represents her avoidance of relationship problems.
To say that Barnett has a keen knack for songwriting would be an understatement. When listening to the record for the first time, you may have to stop the song in the middle to digest that line she just disinterestedly threw in your face that so perfectly describes what you are going through, you almost hate that she brought in bubbling up out of your subconscious. On the nearly seven minute meditiation, “Kim Cavern,” she says “Don’t ask me what I really mean / I am just a reflection / Of what you really wanna see / So take what you want from me.”
The only place where this album really falters is in its lack of truly distinctive melodies, which causes the songs to blend together on first listen.
Barley singing she laments that she “makes mistakes until [she] gets it right.” On this first try, she got it right.