Many of us can link a certain album to pivotal moments in our lives. Whether it’s the first record you bought with your own money, the chord you first learnt to play on guitar, the song that soundtracked your first kiss, the album that got you those awkward and painful pubescent years or the one that set off light bulbs in your brain and inspired you to take a big leap of faith into the unknown – music is often the catalyst for change in our lives and can even help shape who we become.
In this Love Letter To A Record series, Music Feeds asks artists to reflect on their relationship with music and share with us stories about the effect music has had on their lives.
Maddy Jane – Courtney Barnett, Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit(2015)
Is it obvious that I would write a love letter to this album? To me, yes. To some others, so obvious!
Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit somehow literally allowed me to write my music the way I wanted to. But she also just hit me in my core, with so much force, I had never felt so understood. And that’s what I only ever wanted for my music too. That is the goal.
Courtney’s songwriting was revolutionary for the budding musician I was at the time. I had been influenced by badass, blunt women before but not like this. The mundane being brought to light, in the most relatable way, but it’s raw, yet poetic and creates so much in your head and your heart.
I remember going on my first little tour I booked myself, driving down the Hume Highway in my little van, cranking ‘dead fox’, screaming along ‘HEADING DOWN THE HIGHWAY HUME, SOMEWHERE AT THE END OF JUNE…’ I don’t think it was quite June yet but it was winter and it was good enough for me; I was living that tour scene that Courtney had painted so clearly in my head. The Australianisms that I knew I loved about Australian culture that can be painted throughout songs, this album did that so beautifully. Explaining our culture to the people not in it, and so relatable for the people who know it so well.
The rocky, uplifting, old school style of the album overall, that on a surface level is so fun to move along to. That’s what a great album does, I think, on the surface it sounds good, but you know you’re only on the surface and the more you know of it, the better it is.
The almost silly, rock guitar lines in this album just made me feel so at home. They’re fun, so Australian, rocky, old school, quirky, catchy as fuck! She validated my ramble with her ramble. But didn’t just validate it, made me realise a ramble can be so effective and relatable!
I wrote ‘Drown It Out’ after falling in love with this album. I remember I’d started writing it, but I was so confused as to what I was trying to do. After listening to Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit it’s like I knew exactly what I was trying to do, the way I wanted to do it. It was a huge step towards knowing what my music was meant to be. Expressing the mood, tone and attitude of your words through song, enhanced by music to better the meaning, that’s what Courtney does in her own way.
It’s also the unapologetic Australian accent that makes her expression what it is. It’s pretty much a Tasmanian accent, by the way, they are the best Aussie accents, we reeaaallllyyy pronounce our words! Haha.
She uses singing to express the meaning, tone and inflections of what she is saying. It’s not just singing a melody, it’s the way the words need to be expressed so they make the most sense, mean the most they can.
‘Depreston’ will always stop me in my tracks and have me punching the air, yelling the words. It’s not a big pump-up song or anything, it’s beautiful and raw, and Australian. But it also makes me feel whole. It’s the rhythms, rhymes, the human talkiness of it that expresses the meaning further, it’s just so clever, and simple. Simple and effective. That’s what I think is the best genius. Because it doesn’t need dressing up and fluff and anything else to be the genius it is. It’s genius in its bare form.
Courtney writes the way she speaks, that made me realise I could do that, and I related so much to the way she speaks, the word choices and the way her
sentences are formed. It’s not fake, enhanced or prettied up. There is also the humorous side of how she presents her mundane lyrics. It allows for that relatability as well, that has you laughing and nodding your head! The ironies of life are definitely something I take into my own music.
I mean that’s what this album said to me anyway, don’t know about you… or if Courtney meant to do all these things or knew that’s what she was doing, it doesn’t matter. She did them. I related to them. So did the world. She took so much of what I love about even just our Aussie culture to the world. I’ve analysed the shit out of it, but I needed to figure out even just some of the reasons why this album made me feel sooo whole!!
I tried to tell Courtney how much she meant to me once backstage at a festival. I knew it was a silly idea. I knew it would be an intense moment for her, she was lovely, but it definitely kept the barrier between us haha. But it is important to fan out, I think. Maybe next time I see her I’ll say sorry that I fanned out at her, but she needed to hear it. Haha.
I could go on forever about this one album. But one last thing, for the haters, SHE IS FUCKING SINGING. In one of the most humanly expressive ways, I’ve ever heard. It’s bloody expressing the lyrics. She knew she didn’t have to belt every line to get a point across!