Sometimes you hear something new and you just know. In 2013, Courtney Barnett's "Lance Jr." popped on the radio and stopped me in my tracks.
This first full-length studio album from young Australian guitarist, singer and songwriter Barnett lives up to the promise of that deft introduction, which was taken from her debut, "The Double EP: A Sea of Split Peas."
"Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit" confirms that the first-blush crush wasn't misguided. Incisive, cutting and verbally dexterous, if a little overwhelming in a single sitting, Barnett's best new songs — "Pedestrian at Best," "Depreston" and "Debbie Downer" among them — inject memorable heft into timeless rock terrain formerly explored by Polly Jean Harvey, young and angry Elvis Costello, Courtney Love and Kurt Cobain.
Take "Nobody Really Cares if You Don't Go to the Party," a striking, hard-strummed jam about lethargy, isolation and night life. After a friend pressures her for a night on the town while maracas shake in quick rhythm, Barnett declines, singing, "I'd rather stay in bed with the rain over my head / Than have to pick my brain up off the floor." Wordy? A bit. With a few rounds of Raymond Carver-style editing, Barnett could cut a quarter of her syllables without sacrificing any ideas.
The details, though, make "Sometimes I Sit" instantly alluring, and her guitar playing is just as eloquent. Whether banging Nirvana-heavy chords while singing about a chance encounter in a swimming pool ("Aqua Profunda!") or dotting out Pixies-esque guitar lines in "Dead Fox," Barnett is bursting with inspiration.
In "Depreston," she offers a snap-shot moment spent in a bungalow. Narrated in part by a real estate agent, the song tells of an empty house still dotted with memories of its previous inhabitants. In what should be a theme for the HGTV show "House Hunters," Barnett croons, "If you've got a spare half million / You could knock it down and start rebuildin'." She then drifts into a high-lonesome bottleneck guitar solo, which moves longingly until the song fades away.
"Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit"
Mom + Pop
3 1/2 stars out of 4