Originally published August 9, 2015
Courtney Barnett, Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit (Mom + Pop, 2015)
In our family, when we have trouble following a film, my wife hits the pause button and asks, “What do we know so far?” Half a song into Sometimes I Sit and Think and Sometimes I Just Think we know that Oliver Paul is 20, he fears balding despite his thick thatch, has soy linseed vegemite for breakfast, he's sickened by the sight of his computer, flees work screaming, gives his tie to a homeless man, times the trains running late, builds a coke-can pyramid, and trips in a pothole. By the end of the song, a woman riding the elevator with Oliver projects her insecurities onto him and does her best to calm what she fears is suicidal behavior by exclaiming, “I’d give anything to have skin like yours.” No worries, as Oliver puts it, “I’m not suicidal, I’m just idling insignificantly.”
Courtney Barnett has an eye for detail, a kooky sense of connection, a deadpan delivery with an endearing Aussie accent, and knows just when to crank up the volume and pick up the pace or slow things down. I hear hints of The Velvet Underground, The Cowboy Junkies, and Elvis Costello and the Attractions. That said, Courtney is out on her own. Everyone’s perspective is unique; however, Courtney’s singular vantage point is light years away from her nearest neighbor. The media is busy celebrating the 50th anniversary of Bob Dylan going electric at the Newport Folk Festival. This year Barnett took the stage at Newport. It was worth the wait.