Courtney Barnett Album Reviewed
‘Things Take Time, Take Time’
Via MIlk! Records
By Manning Patston
Garbage trucks. Mi Goreng-Noodles. Balls of cotton. Asthma puffers.
All these mundane and seemingly unimportant targets have been explored by Courtney Barnett throughout her musical
journey. Why? Via her deadpan accent and exceptional observation skills, these objects became poignant revealers of human emotion. I believe this idiosyncratic yet alarmingly effective writing style is responsible for Barnett’s continued recognition and adoration in the indie-folk-rock sphere. If Tame Impala Currents was the modern day Jefferson Airplane, Courtney Barnett was the modern day Bob Dylan.
However, on her previous record, Tell Me How You Really Feel (2018), Barnett appeared more pessimistic than usual, bleak musings running amok (likely due to relationship upheavals in her personal life). The record delivered some of her finest moments (“City Looks Pretty”), but the signature spieling wit found in her earlier work was seldom. But don’t fret. Time and reflection are things of beauty. On Things Take Time, Take Time, three years on, we witness her flowing
optimism return. Rhythm sections jog along with an uplifting spirit, as Barnett tears back the curtains to embrace kindness. It’s a joy to hear.
Leading single “Rae Street” opens the record with a gentle drum-machine loop and slow, 3 chord loll. Under a pandemic lockdown, she watches the street below from her window, letting her mind run free. A “pair across the street” paints faded bricks to Barnett’s concern. “What’s the point, it looks fine from up here”. A waggish moment to remember.
“Sundown Affair” continues the warm soundscape of electric guitar and inoffensive drum loops, soundtracking more of Barnett’s hilarious considerations. “You’ll build me a table one day, well, I’d be so grateful”, she smiles. The teasing, however, reveals an emerging kindness and clarity within the artist. Final lyric “I don’t want you to be alone” is wrapped in major chords and a bouncing bassline. The jumpy bass returns on the short and sweet “Take It Day By Day”, and the ecstatic “If I Don’t Hear From You Tonight” (see clip below), reinforcing its intended significance. These songs serve as antidotes to the restlessness of late-night anxiety.
The most unforgettable song on the record for me was “Before You Gotta Go”. It was quickly labelled by the media as a breakup tune, but Barnett was quick to establish its wider scope in an interview with The Guardian. It’s also about “not clinging onto regret” she adds. It’s one of her favourite songs she’s ever written; a sentiment I strongly agree with. As the fingerpicked electric noodles along to Barnett’s unguarded honesty, it’s impossible not to attach the lyrics to your own experiences. “Pride Like Poison” and “Always Keeping Score” stand naked and heavy.
One more song worth mentioning is the friendly “Write A List Of Things To Look Forward To”, which sounds as wholesome as it reads. An upbeat kit, broken-chorded synth, and reverbed electrics all culminate into a warm hug as Barnett combats negative energy. Despite breakups, some unfortunate passings in her micro world, and the turbulence caused from COVID-19, Barnett is putting one foot in front of the other, walking around with her hair down, and finding peace. We should too.
Manning Patston is a writer and musician from Sydney; a sucker for folk music and cultural happenings. More of his writing can be found at Happy Mag.
Read Manning’s review of Rough and Rowdy Ways by Bob Dylan for Listening Through The Lens HERE
More Music Adventures Await!
Courtney Barnett Album Reviewed