Courtney Barnett

Don’t worry: Music still means everything

I’m sure y’all have been extremely worried about the state of music, seeing as how I haven’t been updating you much lately, but never fear: music is still everything. I’ve just been super busy learning the ins and outs of website development, and it’s eating up almost every minute of my spare time. Of course, every other minute belongs to whiskey, and while I’ve wanted to share some of those whiskey-soaked ramblings via the blog, something in my subconscious said no. So my apologies for not publishing any blogs at all these past few weeks.

In hopes of making it up, here’s a rundown of all that’s mattering to me musically right now…

First off, there’s a ton of good albums that were recently dropped, and the three I haven’t been able to stop listening to are Will Butler’s Policy, Courtney Barnett’s official debut Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit, and Strangers to Ourselves, the awesome latest from Modest Mouse.

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Butler’s was a decent surprise, especially since I’ve always assumed his brother Win, whom Will shares the stage with in Arcade Fire, was the more talented of the two. Little did I know Will collaborated with Owen Pallett on the Oscar-nominated score for Her last year, nor that he was cool enough to record the exceptional Policy in just one week at Jimi Hendrix’s Electric Lady Studios. Sure, it’s a short album, with just 8 tracks, but there’s plenty of deliciousness packed in there – consider it 27 minutes of smart and playful ventures into indie alt rock and dancing jazz.

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As for Barnett, I can’t stress enough how badly you need to check out this chick’s vivacious music, which veers effortlessly from bouncy to solemn, all the while backed by her monotonous yet powerful vocals. She’s an outstanding songwriter, to boot, and when you’re not busy dancing around the kitchen to her mostly upbeat music you’re probably left standing there trying to wrap your brain around all the brilliance she spews with her lyrics.

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Then there’s Modest Mouse’s newest masterpiece, an album that declares they still give zero fucks about what the rest of music is doing – they’re here to make what they think you should be listening to. Strangers to Ourselves has some rad Man Man-esque moments, not to mention impressive elaboration of the style they founded when they were born 20+ years ago. It seems every one of their albums does a mashup of sounds found on all previous recordings as well as an exploration of new sounds piquing their interest these days. It’s definitely an appropriately rockin’ release.

Another band with new music, but no set release date for their record, is the eternally cool Ratatat, the electronic dance duo near and dear to my heart. They floored me with their set at my second Sasquatch!, and I’m pretty sure I’ve listened to 2010’s LP4 a thousand times since. It seems ridiculous they haven’t released a proper full-length in five years, but word is they’re currently recording their next, and it’s of course tentatively titled LP5. They gave a taste of what’s to come during their set at last weekend’s Coachella, with “Cream on Chrome”, and it’s funky and tropical and heavy in all the right places. I love it to pieces. And cannot wait for this next record.



With that I’d like to thank Coachella, cuz while I’d never in a million years travel to Indio and rub shoulders with hipsters and rich kids, I really appreciate their willingness to stream sets from the festival. It was terrific to see Tame Impala’s set via the stream, because I’ve loved them for a long time, yet have never gotten a chance to see them live. If you know me, you’ve probably heard me complain at least 5 or 6 times about that year I was supposed to see them at Sasquatch! but they couldn’t make it due to baggage issues at London’s Heathrow Airport. Well, their set at Coachella looked and sounded fabulous, even though they didn’t play my favorite, “Half Full Glass of Wine”. Instead they crushed “Elephant”, which included an outrageously short but super rad drum solo, and encouraged the crowd to check out fellow Aussies AC/DC by playing a sweet riff from “Thunderstruck” and declaring “I’ve been waiting my whole fucking life to see AC/DC”. Adorable. Now I’ve gotta get to watching the stream from what I’ve heard was a badass performance from Azealia Banks, as well as that for Run the Jewels, because Run the Jewels.

And to wrap up, a bit of bad news: work responsibilities are likely gonna leave me unable to go to Sasquatch! this year. Now, while I’m overwhelmingly devastated about this, I’ve at least got a good bunch of friends that will be attending and can relay all the crazy awesomeness the 2015 Sasquatch! provided. So stay tuned next month for a breakdown on all the bands performing this year, and reasons why it’s gonna be jaw-dropping. I’m so very bummed I won’t be there for it, but *sigh* there’s always next year~

Courtney Barnett – The Double EP: A Sea of Split Peas

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Grade: A

In 2011 Melbourne-based singer-songwriter Courtney Barnett released the fantastic EP I’ve Got a Friend Called Emily Ferris, then began her own label, Milk! Records, in 2012. The following year she would release the equally terrific How To Carve A Carrot Into A Rose EP and would smartly decide to combine her first two EPs into The Double EP: A Sea of Split Peas. Somehow, someway, I knew nothing of these magical releases until about three weeks ago. Better late than never, I guess, because Barnett’s brilliant lyricism and instrumentation have renewed my faith in the songwriting of today.

The first half of the double EP is comprised of the six tracks from How To Carve A Carrot Into A Rose, and it reveals Barnett to be the aloof and melancholic songstress that she is. So many of the songs come off as rambling tales, delivered in a whimsically deadpan way that absolutely calls Dylan to mind. Maybe the best of these is “Avant Gardener”, which starts off as the retelling of her Monday, and slowly detours off into directions only Barnett can probably understand, with lyrics like “Anaphylactic and super hypocondriactic/should’ve stayed in bed today”. Also attractive to the song is that while its lovely rhythm remains the same for much of its duration, squawking guitar nicely breaks up the monotony midway through.

Another great one from the first half of the album comes in “History Eraser”, a barroom tune full of lyrics just as wonderful as the drums/guitar/piano behind them. Barnett sings lovingly of being drunk in love: “We drank green margaritas/danced with sweet senoritas/and we all went home as winners of a kind.”

Then there’s “Anonymous Club”, which has Barnett’s voice at its highest, most expressive octave, and “Canned Tomatoes (Whole)”, which also offers a more melodious version of her pipes. Both songs are wonderful alternates to the slightly woozy level her voice takes on in most songs, but that’s not saying Barnett ever sounds unsatisfactory on this release. No, no – she almost always sounds entrancing.

It’s especially appealing that the two EPs segue seamlessly into each other. The I’ve Got a Friend Called Emily Ferris segment of the double EP does feel a little more lighthearted, but it’s still as exciting and rousing as the first half. It also features some tasty instrumentation, particularly in the beautiful interplay between the guitar and piano of “Porcelain”.

And so I’m really excited for future material from Barnett, and cannot wait to catch her when she comes to my neck of the woods this fall. Be sure to check her out if she ends up touring near you!

Hear “Are You Looking After Yourself” on this week’s playlist.

9/7/14 Playlist

 

Mikal Cronin opens up this week’s playlist partly because I adore his approach to garage pop and partly because Spotify doesn’t have Ty Segall’s brand new album available yet (check the blog for the review of this album tomorrow!). Cronin and Segall are best buds, and have played together for years – whenever one of them has a new release out, they throw their full support behind each other, and this includes taking part in each other’s back-up bands on tour. I have 100 percent appreciation for Cronin and his loyal ways with Segall, especially since he is a viciously impressive musician all his own. The song above definitely proves that.

Also featured are tracks from some of my favorite female-fronted bands in the past five years: Heartless Bastards, Those Darlins and Courtney Barnett. It takes a lot for a female musician to stand out to me, and I think it’s because I’ve always held up Janis Joplin and Nina Simone as the queens of the industry; matching up to them is almost impossible. Barnett’s doing what she can, though, with her incredible singer-songwriter ways. Check in later tonight for my review of The Double EP: A Sea of Split Peas, which the Aussie mastermind released last October.