Every once in awhile, I get heavily invested in a young musician with promise and convince myself they’ll wind up with a full and impressive discography a few years down the road (so that I can then become one of those irritating people who says they’ve been a fan all along). Currently I’m placing my bets on Courtney Barnett, a 27-year-old Aussie with three EPs and one full album under her belt.
I’m normally biased against singer-songwriter types, because I prefer the intricacy of several different sounds being melded together to create something new. I get tired of hearing the same three guitar chords over and over, topped with vocals that are either indistinct or simply unremarkable. But Barnett, while she does fall into the singer-songwriter category, doesn’t have the problem of sounding like everyone else.
On her first full-length album, “Sometimes I Sit and Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit,” released earlier this year, Barnett delivers funny, insightful and often strange lyrics that would be fun to listen to even without musical backing. The tracks each contain little stories about familiar events in life; in my favorite song on the album, “Depreston,” a woman goes house-hunting with her significant other in suburban Melbourne and begins to wonder about the previous owner of one of the homes.
Barnett’s voice is what elevates her lyrical talent. There’s a sarcasm in her tone and an almost off-tune-ness to her singing that inexplicably works. Her thick Australian accent adds to her sound’s unique quality, and makes her lyrics all the more compelling. (Though this is probably a silly thing to note, it stands out to me as an American listener with very few Australian bands in my music library.)
An easy and sure way to get into her music is to watch the video below of her NPR Tiny Desk Concert, which was filmed last year. Even stripped down to just Barnett’s voice and an electric guitar, her songs are rich, rewarding listens.