Just as comfortable discussing the annoying inflation of Melbourne house prices as she is making quiet reflections upon religion and existence, it’s pretty obvious why Courtney Barnett is Australia’s Next Big Thing – as certified by Jimmy Fallon and most recently Ellen DeGeneres.
Her debut album, Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit , is, quite simply, brilliant. It’s an astute portrait of being a twenty-something in Melbourne, but its intelligence and dry wit makes it universal. It’s early days, but it seems like the Melburnian (via Sydney and Hobart) could achieve a status in Australian storytelling previously reserved for the likes of Skyhooks and Paul Kelly.
Barnett’s been called all sorts of things – “slacker”, indie-punk, bluesy – but, honestly, this is in a league of its own. Nowhere else will references to the 96 tram, buying percolators in Preston, or the sea of Swanston Street commuters seem more organic, or make an Aussie living thousands of kilometres away from those Melbourne streets so nostalgic.
She’s a poet, weaving unbelievable detail into every line, and with puns to induce a chuckle from even the most deadpan. Her Australian accent doesn’t hinder; it’s endearing and not broad for the sake of it, it gives a wonderful identity and setting to the stories.
The record is philosophical without erring on the side of wanky, funny without once sounding cheesy. It’s almost never overdone – just Barnett and her two band members, recording in a nondescript north Melbourne studio in just 10 days. No frills. Nobody Really Cares If You Don’t Go to the Party is one of the few moments where her wordiness gets the better of her, and we lose that simplicity and clarity ever so slightly.
But no matter. It’s the endearing DIY feel – the art all done by Barnett herself, the constant hometown references – coupled with the unrivalled professionalism and near perfection of most tracks that make the record such a winner.
“Put me on a pedestal,” she muses, “and I’ll only disappoint you”. It’s a funny sentiment from someone whose rise to fame has been nothing short of meteoric. There’s not a hint of disappointment thus far, only the suggestion that there’s far more to come.
Courtney Barnett is an unlikely rock star, the girl who spent the last few years serving us pints at Northcote Social Club, but there’s no doubt that Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit is a contender for Australian record of the year.
‘Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit’ is out now. Courtney Barnett will be taking the album out on the road for a national tour this April and May.