By India Slodki, Features Editor
Courtney Barnett’s “Elevator Operator,” the opening track of her 2015 album “Sometimes I Sit and Think and Sometimes I Just Sit,” makes me want to stomp my way into oblivion. A marching drum line drives through Barnett’s story about Oliver Paul, a 20-year- old office worker seeking respite from the humdrum of office life.
“Sometimes I Sit and Think and Sometimes I Just Sit” is Barnett’s second full-length album and follows her 2013 release, The Double Sea EP: A Sea of Split Peas. The album featured “Avant Gardener,” the track that earned Barnett’s initial praise. Since then, Barnett has most notably founded Milk! Records, an Australian-based record label that mostly signs independent singer-songwriters. “Sometimes I Sit and Think and Sometimes I Just Sit” established Barnett’s pragmatic take on the alternative singer-songwriter.
“Pedestrian at Best” follows “Elevator Operator” and is a manic examination of the seemingly inconsequential. Barnett unleashes an avalanche of existential musings, catching the listener off-guard and unprepared. Barnett ponders; “What are we gonna do when everything all falls through? I must confess, I’ve made a mess of what should be a small success.” Simplistic and linear guitar leave room for Barnett’s toughened but sincere observations to take center stage. The instrumentals serve to amplify the track’s feelings of claustrophobia. It promises an eternity of being lost in the inbetween.
Sometimes I Sit and Think and Sometimes I Just Sit’s greatest power, though, lies in Barnett’s self-aware observations about the devastatingly mundane. “Depression” is the greatest example of this, as Barnett muses about settling down in a home designed for decay. “Then I see the handrail in the shower, a collection of those canisters for coffee, tea and flour, and a photo of a young man in a van in Vietnam,” Barnett observes over a bluesy guitar line.
Throughout the album, Barnett offers feelings of regret that require humble contemplation. The album reminds us that to be human is to be clumsy and imperfect.
On the album, rambling introspection about the mundane frames life as an inescapable labyrinth, one that Barnett herself is resolved to reside in. From organic vegetables to water stains, Barnett is able to connect crusty details about the everyday.
“Sometimes I Sit and Think and Sometimes I Just Sit” spins Barnett’s observations into a brutally honest image about what life contains. “Kim’s Caravan” exemplifies this theme. On the track, Barnett delivers a somber collection of little tragedies through a foreboding bass line.
We live in an era of polished personas, in which each of us presents a selected and highly curated preview of our lives to display for all to see through entities like Facebook and Instagram. “Sometimes I Sit and Think and Sometimes I Just Sit” is Barnett’s way of reminding us that, ultimately, life is constructed of the little things.