Text: Paul van der Zalm
“Time is money, and money is no man’s friend”. Courtney Barnett used that famous quote from her father in ‘Rae Street’, the opening track of her third solo album Things Take Time, Take Time that will be released soon. Of course, this could refer to the three years between the release of Tell Me How You Really Feel and this album, or the processing of more or less drastic events in Barnett’s life. But it can also refer to the time it takes to finally come to your senses.
In the case of Barnett, the corona period gave her that chance and she took it. Back in Melbourne, alone for the first time in a flat provided for her, she managed to distance herself and found new inspiration for the songs on this album.
At first listening the songs don’t sound spectacularly different; still they are characterized by Barnett’s somewhat lazy way of singing as we were used to since the first convincing EP’s that preceded her debut album. On further listening one notices that the earlier cynicism in the lyrics has made way for loving observations. As always, Barnett stays close to herself, but it is about universal feelings. One of the key songs is the upbeat ‘Before You Gotta Go’, one of her own favourites, which is about saying goodbye without resentment.
The resignation is also present in ‘Take It Day By Day’, a short song that sounds a bit like it could be written by Pip Blom and the only song on the album where her regular accompanists Dave Mudie and Bones Sloane can be heard on backing vocals. Other guests include Laetitia Tamko a.k.a. Vagabon on the melancholy closing track ‘Oh The Night’ on which Barnett plays drums herself and Cate le Bon on ‘If I Don’t Hear From You Tonight’. This last song can be seen as Barnett’s first love song (the lyrics speak of a ‘Curfew Lullaby’) in the style of Lou Reed. This song is also the closest to the work she did with Kurt Vile, where she met Warpaint drummer Stella Mozgawa. Barnett was able to enlist her fellow countryman, who had also returned to Australia, as a musical partner and co-producer for this album.
Some more tracks worth mentioning: In ‘Here’s The Thing’ we hear Barnett really sing like other countrywoman Stella Donnelly, against the background of a slow bossa nova rhythm and with an interesting complementary guitar arrangement. In the first part of ‘Turning Green’, only vocals are heard over percussion, after which it ends in a long outro with electric guitar. The lyrics of ‘Write A List Of Things To Look Forward To’ cannot really be called cheerful, but musically it is cheerful sounding up-tempo pop with a jangling guitar; the video accompanying this song is a nod to the many corona packets that are delivered to the home.
So this time Barnett saves the real blues for the cover, in nine blue stripes.
P.S.: Those who want to hear Barnett rock: she recently released ‘Smile Real Nice’ for the soundtrack of the TV series ‘Harriet The Spy’.