Showing posts with label courtney barnett. Show all posts
Showing posts with label courtney barnett. Show all posts

Thursday, May 24, 2018

album review: 'tell me how you really feel' by courtney barnett

I feel like I've opened up a lot of my reviews in recent weeks with, 'when I covered this artist last time, it didn't go well'... and yet while I'll definitely question my presentation in those older reviews, the more I've gone back to the actual points I was making, the more I'm convinced that my opinions haven't really changed.

And yet if we're talking about one of my most contentious reviews, Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit by Courtney Barnett stands as one of the big ones - and what was all the more exasperating is that I definitely understood the appeal. The flat disaffection masking deeper wells of depression, the jagged garage rock tones, the well-framed self-deprecating passive aggression, it had a very stark mid-90s indie rock veneer that I could respect... to a point. And that was the frustrating thing - I kept expecting this project to actually cut more deeply in its content and production, but that would require a greater amount of investment and focus that it didn't seem like Barnett brought to the table in comparison with her sharper peers, and while she provided a firm rationale why caring wasn't on her menu, it also meant I didn't really have the same interest either. And that disaffection couldn't help but feed into her collaboration with Kurt Vile last year Lotta Sea Lice, which I may have liked more if it had felt like a cohesive or engaging project than an extended workshopping session.

And thus I had some serious concerns about the critical reception to this record, nearly all of which was pointing a finger at those Kurt Vile sessions as an indicator of what was to come in neutering any sense of direction or edge or deeper punch... most of which I'd question was on there in the first place, but hey, it's not like my expectations were going to get any lower: what did I find on Tell Me How You Really Feel?

Monday, October 23, 2017

video review: 'lotta sea lice' by courtney barnett & kurt vile

So this was a pretty chill listen. Not much more than that, and the sloppiness did wear a little thin on me, but overall, not bad.

Friday, October 20, 2017

album review: 'lotta sea lice' by courtney barnett & kurt vile

So I think I've said this in the past, but sometimes there are collaborations that just make too much sense, almost to the point where when you hear about them you wonder how on earth you didn't think of it first. These are artists that might have a very similar style or attitude or type of production, it's just an artistic choice that fits. And right from the start, when a lot of critics heard that Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile were teaming up, the collective response was, 'well, duh, of course they are'. 

But I was a little more reticent. I'll be the first to admit I haven't quite fallen head over heels for Kurt Vile the way a lot of critics have over the past few years, mostly due to a naturalistic style of songwriting and composition that was right on the borderline of sloppy. And if possible I was even harder on Courtney Barnett's debut in 2015, easily one of my most contentious reviews where I just was not able to buy into the self-contained millennial angst that seemed to add up to a fair bit less than the sum of its parts, all of Vile's detachment but none of the bemusement or wry humor that could temper an edge that was not matched in her production. But I understood how Barnett and Vile could compliment each other, with songwriting that would likely prove as tangled and meandering as ever - especially if they were looking to explore their own artistic process - but my curiosity was more on the sound of the album, because while Kurt Vile started off near lo-fi and garage rock, his material has gotten a fair bit more sedate over the past couple of years. So where were they going to take this sound?

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

album review: 'sometimes i sit and think, and sometimes i just sit' by courtney barnett

I've mentioned in the past that I'm not a fan of 'twee' music, music that emphasizes willful immaturity and cuteness and normalcy for its own sake. Part of it is the aesthetic - bubblegum pop can work really well when it's done right for example - but the general aesthetic and atmosphere just turns me off. Part of it is I have a flair for the bombastic and dramatic - I like power metal for god's sake - but I reckon it runs deeper than that, because it's not like I don't like regular, down-to-earth human stories. Hell, I listen to country music and have praised artists who pull their inspiration from the most mundane of details. But to me, the combination of a willfully immature tone or sound and a choice to go for a more mundane or 'twee' approach just turns me off.

And it seems a lot of this music coasts by on relatability, where as a critic things get tricky. I'm not going to deny that there's a factor to being able to relate to an artist or sound that influences why people like it - it lends a degree of authenticity to the experience - but I'd argue there should be more than that. For me, the best artists can make that connection with their audience regardless of the stories that they're telling. On the other hand, I tend to react negatively when artists try to elevate the very mundane into something to connect with their audience and maybe along the way make it mean something. Even coming from me, it smacks of pretentiousness, a cheap way to connect with an audience without the imagination to push more boundaries. And considering so much of it doesn't play for bigger drama, it strikes of trying to find something powerful where there really isn't much there.

As such, I had a real sinking feeling going to cover Courtney Barnett, Australian singer-songwriter who had won a lot of critical acclaim for her embrace of fragments of 90s grunge, garage rock, and hints of very 'mundane' lyricism. Her debut follows two very well-received EPs, and this looks to be her most critically-acclaimed to date. As such I'm almost obliged to cover it while I work through the back catalogues of Laura Marling and Sufjan Stevens to review their albums. And even though I expected this would not be my thing at all, I vowed to give it a fair chance - part of my goals this year would be covering music outside of my usual comfort zone. So, with that, how is Sometimes I Sit And Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit?