Courtney Barnett is too in her comfort zone with new album

By VI KWARTLER
On November 14, 2021

Photo Courtesy of Bruce, Wiki

In a lyrically self-reflective whirlwind of tight drums and classically apathetic vocals, Courtney Barnett has returned with her latest album, “Things Take Time, Take Time.” Although Barnett has always leaned toward the passively nonsensical to mask the truth of her lyrics, this album paints a slightly different picture as implied by the album title. 

Tracks like “Take it Day By Day,” “If I Don’t Hear From You Tonight” and “Write a List of Things To Look Forward To” reflect the themes of self-help that were present in her previous album, “Tell Me How You Really Feel” — namely in tracks such as “Walking on Eggshells” and “Sunday Roast.” 

It is in this manner that Barnett seems to be riding on her own coattails. Even though singles from the album embody her sometimes sleepy but always groovy sound, “Things Take Time, Take Time” feels to unfortunately be her least interesting album yet.

Barnett is a talented guitarist, and she has let her instrumentals carry more of her past work. The songs on “Things Take Time, Take Time” certainly have a cohesive sound, but they blend together a little too smoothly, almost as if they were the same song. 

Comforting a friend instead of comforting herself is the most obvious theme of the album. In “Rae Street,” the first track on the album, Barnett sings more about the state of things as she wakes up in the morning. 

“Light a candle for the sufferin’ / Send my best wishes with the wind / All our candles, hopes and prayers,” she sings. “Though well-meanin’, they don’t mean a thing.” 

Barnett has always been in tune to her surroundings and quick to paint pictures, and this is no different. However, as the album plays on, she moves her focus to the person she is attempting to comfort as she aches alongside them. 

In “Turning Green,” Barnett delights in badgering her friend about a new person they are seeing, and listens intently: “I hear all your fears / And they are understandable, my friend / Why don’t you let go of those ideas? / They’re never gonna serve you in the end.” 

This is another example of how “Things Take Time, Take Time” is often human in both the best and worst ways, detailing wonders and fears, but only once you actually listen. The lyrics pair with instrumentals softer than ever to encourage that emotionally charged theme. 

“Things Take Time, Take Time” has a solid basis for a lyrical journey, and lyrics have always been one of Barnett’s strong suits. However, she does have so many other strengths that seem to have been not just forced to sit back, but thrown out the window entirely. 

While previous albums — namely “Sometimes I Sit and Think, Sometimes I Just Sit” — may read more disdainful even as she takes in similar subjects of people and places, they come across as more musically interesting. Heavy guitar and loose drums paired with Barnett shouting in her heavy Melbourne accent tell the story of almost a different musician. 

She has been able to seamlessly blend the two sounds in the past, as proven in “Tell Me How You Really Feel,” and while there is nothing wrong — really, there is everything right — with making more comforting music, it is enough to make listeners wish that her guitar was at the lead once again. 

 

3/5 stars

 

vkwartle@ramapo.edu

 

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