Why So Serious?: I Love Courtney Barnett (and why you should, too)

Courtney Barnett’s debut full-length album, Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I just Sit, was the soundtrack to my springtime. It’s a rare example, the only one that comes to mind at present, of an album that is a true work of art while remaining entirely devoid of pretention.

Barnett writes lyrics that say as much as possible, with as few words as possible. This is something I struggle with as a writer, musician and a human trying desperately to effectively communicate. Her lyrics are funny and light while making a strong statement (“give me all your money, and I’ll make some origami, honey”, for example).

Her style is simple – guitar, bass, drums, vocals – but is fresh in its embrace of simplicity. There is a ‘90s grunge flavour that is very much alive in each song on the record and particularly in “Pedestrian at Best”. The album is tight and thoughtful but never tries too hard. Other highlights include “Elevator Operator”, about a guy whose rooftop daydreams are mistaken for a suicide contemplation and “Depreston”, which shows off a softer side to Barnett’s writing.

I love this record because Barnett writes songs that are smart but not pompous, emotional but not emo and simultaneously humble and confident. She writes the music I wish I could write. I admire the sense of humour and personality she maintains in her writing and makes me wish other artists were as sharp. Whereas a lot of music that crosses the airwaves strives to be profound, Sometimes I Sit reminds us to lighten up.


Hilary Johnston
Hilary Johnston is a writer, event manager and musician from Toronto.
Hilary Johnston