I’ll be the first to admit, I didn’t really get Courtney Barnett when she first broke out with The Double EP A Sea of Split Peas. At the time, I knew her lyrics were smart and witty, but for the life of me just couldn’t get around the deadpan delivery. It wasn’t until she released Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit that I took notice of the complete quality that Barnett was delivering. Now onto her third album Things Take Time, Take Time, Barnett has once again hit the mark with ten songs delivering on that observational humour, wit and matching musicianship that has won Barnett acclaim over the past near-decade.
While never really an act whose schtick and music involved out and out upbeat, in-your-face aggression, one of the immediate takeaways from Things Take Time, Take Time is the equal layers of sadness and hope that fill the album. Born out of a period at the back end of touring second album Tell Me How You Really Feel where Barnett was just tired of life and its monotony, it was the early stages of 2020 where Barnett took some time to find herself and slowly began to enjoy making music once more.
Starting to move away from a sadness tinged life, many of the new songs written during this period once again began featuring her dry wit, were accompanied by a mostly realist nature and view into her mindset, and were relatively upbeat and not overly dramatic. This is evident on one of the album’s standout singles, the life advice filled “Write a List of Things to Look Forward To”. True to form, the track does have some obtuse and mildly morbid lyrics (‘a baby is born/ as a man lay dying’ and ‘sit beside me we’ll watch the world burn/ we’ll never learn we don’t deserve nice things’), but overwhelming feels like a happy song, despite obviously showcasing a person struggling.
Barnett’s conversational approach to her storytelling has always been one of the elements that has drawn so many people into what she is putting down. Most notably with the modern classic “Avante Gardener”, this observational approach continues on tracks like “Take It Day By Day” (the shortest song on the album and also another title with great life advice) and “If I Don’t Hear From You Tonight” (a love song about waiting up for your partner to reply to your message fully well knowing they’ve probably fallen asleep already). It’s these types of songs that helps Things Take Time, Take Time almost reach the heights of its predecessors.
While the album does have its fun and warmer moments, the maturity on the albums takes the listener into a period of Barnett’s life where reflection and melancholia were the prominent emotion. Songs like “Here’s The Thing” and “Before You Gotta Go” (a peak on an album that does struggle with pacing) pinpoint a period in Barnett’s life where relationships were ending and she had to re-find herself as an artist and, most importantly, a person.
On one hand, this time between albums was a low point in her life, however this period of solitude has afforded Courtney Barnett the person to grow the talents and stories of Courtney Barnett the artist, which in the long run should ultimately benefit the longevity of her musical career and ultimately her own sanity.
With all of this in mind, Things Take Time, Take Time does still show glimpses of vintage Barnett. Opener “Rae Street” is a classic and fan favourite in waiting, as she traipses through an overly descriptive commentary on the ins and outs of her mundane local neighbourhood. Ultimately, Things Take Time, Take Time doesn’t quite reach the heights of Barnett’s previous albums. Despite this, Courtney Barnett is still well capable of making music that many will find to be an insightful and at times heartwarming venture into the life of an artist re-learning how to find fun and meaning in their life.
THREE AND HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Things Take Time, Take Time is out Friday 12 November via Milk! Records / Remote Control Records.
Header image credit: Mia Mala McDonald