Courtney Barnett – ‘Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit’

Melbourne songwriter's debut album is full of wry slacker pop and caustic humour

“Put me on a pedestal, I’ll only disappoint you”, bristles Courtney Barnett on the pinballing ‘Pedestrian At Best’, the lead single and second track from her debut album ‘Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit’. It could be a warning shot: a way of squashing everyone’s anticipation after 2013 single ‘Avant Gardener’, her hilariously deadpan take on having a panic attack while planting vegetables, turned the 26-year-old Australian into a poster girl for slacker pop. For anyone haplessly trying to make sense of the meaningless din of the 2010s, Barnett’s wry observations and caustic humour made her seem the perfect spokesperson. Only now here she is, claiming she’s just as clueless as the rest of us.

Don’t take her at her word, though. On the follow-up to 2013’s double EP ‘A Sea Of Split Peas’, she’s still trying to figure it all out, spooling out stream-of-consciousness thoughts about all of life’s mundanities. On the washed-out ‘Depreston’ she’s battling her own brain while househunting, trying to convince herself it’s OK to live in a lousy neighbourhood just because it’s cheaper. “We don’t have to be around all these coffee shops”, she reasons as she gazes around – until she spots a thief being arrested by police and grumbles “How’s that for first impressions?”. ‘Dead Fox’, with its splintered guitars, finds her fretting about whether her hayfever could cause a car crash during a lengthy drive.

The slow, insomnia-inspired strum of ‘An Illustration Of Loneliness (Sleepless In New York)’ and the sinister creepiness of ‘Kim’s Caravan’ are similarly confused. The latter finds Barnett looking at a ceiling, her mind playing tricks as she eyes a damp patch and insists it looks like “Jesus, and he’s frowning at me”. But Barnett is never resigned to defeat. On ‘Elevator Operator’, a disgruntled office worker makes his way to the roof, but, when begged not to jump, replies: “I’m not suicidal… I come up here for perception and clarity/ I like to imagine I’m playing Sim City”. She might not want a pedestal, but there aren’t many songwriters who’d make better use of it.