Courtney Barnett has been celebrated for turning everyday moments into miniature indie-rock epics, so what will she do when her life becomes epic? With the release of her full-length debut in March 2015, the Melbourne native has been celebrated as one of the most distinctive and compelling voices in indie rock, a singer-songwriter who mixes witty, often hilarious, occasionally even heartbreaking observations with devastating self-assessment.
Announcing a major talent, Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit has sent fans and critics alike shuffling through their record collections to find a similarly impressive first album. In a four-star review, Rolling Stone praised her as “one of the sharpest, most original songwriters around-at any level, in any genre… a self-strafing humorist á la Lena Dunham who’s also a Dylan-style word ninja.”
Sometimes I Sit and Think has cemented her standing as an idiosyncratic and boundary-smashing artist. As Spin noted in a 9-out-of-10 review, hers is “a voice that, in more ways than one, we’ve never quite heard before. And that in itself should make it one of the most thrilling albums you hear this year. “Barnett’s songs are wild and shaggy and wordy, her lyrics plainspoken and delivered like she’s making them up on the spot. Fueled by the nimble crunch of her guitar and the loose groove of the rhythm section, the music is rooted in the slack jangle of the late 1980s and the early 1990s, but sounds like the 2010s.
These songs reveal not only an assured songwriter and guitar player, but also an artist and businesswoman who in just a few years has already proved highly influential. Her songs may not sound tightly coiled, but they are carefully and exactingly structured. Her lyrics may ramble, but each word is carefully chosen. She is, however, no perfectionist. In fact, she may be an imperfectionist: Barnett strives to fine-tune her songs as much as possible, but she knows that their flaws-a missed note here, a flubbed line there-can make the music sound more human, more relatable, more sympathetic. “My songs follow me as a normal human with normal emotions,” she explains, “so there are great highs and great lows. They span everything in my life.”
Barnett spent most of the year on the road, playing increasingly roomy venues as well as making big appearances on The Ellen DeGeneres Show and The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. Over the summer she impressed with incendiary sets at Bonnaroo, Lollapalooza, and the Pitchfork Music Festival. Following the release of a deluxe edition in November, Sometimes I Sit and Think scored high on year-end album lists, including the NPR, The Guardian, Pitchfork, TIME, Stereogum, and The Wall Street Journal, among other publications.
On top of those accolades, she received eight ARIA Award nominations (the equivalent of an Australian Grammy) and won four trophies: Best Female Artist, Breakthrough Artist, Best Independent Release, and Best Cover Artist (she drew the chairs that adorn the liners for Sometimes I Sit and Think). Over in the States she was nominated for the Best New Artist Grammy alongside James Bay, Sam Hunt, Tori Kelly, and Meghan Trainor. “It’s just nice to have that recognition on such a huge international scale” she recently told Billboard. ”
“Put me on a pedestal and I’ll only disappoint you,” she sings on “Pedestrian at Best,” an unlikely statement of purpose. “Tell me I’m exceptional and I’ll promise to exploit you.” Such threats are hollow, of course, Barnett appears surefooted and confident as she continues to enlighten the world with her unique and timeless brand of songwriting.
Accolades, reviews and attention aside there is a growing suspicion amongst the music community that we may have just found the new voice of an entire generation.courtneybarnett.com.au/