Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit
Courtney Barnett's 2015 full-length debut established her immediately as a force in independent rock—although she'd bristle at any sort of hype, as she sneers on the noise-pop gem "Pedestrian at Best": "Put me on a pedestal and I'll only disappoint you/Tell me I'm exceptional, I promise to exploit you." Warnings aside, her brittle riffing and deadpan lyrics—not to mention indelible hooks and nagging sense of unease with the world—helped put Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit into the upper echelon of 2010s indie rock. The Melbourne-based singer-songwriter stares at stained ceilings and checks out open houses as she reflects on love, death, and the quality of supermarket produce, making Sometimes a crowd-pleaser almost in spite of itself. Propulsive tracks like the hip-shaking "Elevator Operator" and the squalling "Dead Fox" pair Barnett's talked-sung delivery with grungy, hooky rave-ups that sound beamed in from a college radio station's 1995 top-ten list. Her singing style isn't conversational as much as it is like a one-sided phone call from a friend who spends a lot of time in her own head, figuring out the meaning of life in real time while trying to answer the question "How are you?"—and sounding captivating every step of the way. But Barnett can also command blissed-out songs that bury pithy social commentary beneath their distorted guitars—"Small Poppies" hides notes about power and cruelty within its wobbly chords, while the marvelous "Depreston" rolls thoughts on twentysomething thriftiness, half-glimpsed lives, and shifting ideas of "home" across its sun-bleached landscape. While the topics of conversation can be heavy, Barnett's keen ear for what makes a potent pop song and her inability to be satisfied with herself make Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit a fierce opening salvo.