Sunday, November 21, 2021

Courtney Barnett’s ‘Things Take Time, Take Time’ is Certainly Time Well Spent

As the many shades of blue on the album cover suggest, ‘Things Take Time, Take Time’ is a much calmer and softer album than Courtney Barnett’s previous effort ‘Tell Me How You Really Feel’

But whilst it may feel like we are a world away from Barnett’s explosive screamers such as ‘I’m Not Your Mother, I’m Not Your Bitch’, this new record stays true to ‘Classic Courtney’ in its honest, poetic, and immersive scene-setting lyrics, as well as its hypnotic musicality.  

The album opens with lead single ‘Rae Street’ – a track where Barnett’s lyrical poetry is at its strongest. Here, Barnett welcomes the listener to the feeling of a slow existential morning spent staring out the window, watching garbage trucks and children playing whilst reflecting on the meaning, the meaningless, and the fleeting nature of time. The lyrical highlight of this track comes in the first verse where Barnett states “All our candles, hopes and prayers / Though well-meanin' they don't mean a thing / Unless we see some change / I might change my sheets today”. This relatable and witty wordplay is a staple of Courtney’s song-writing and makes you smile amongst the melancholic guitar playing. 

Another highlight of the album is ‘Sunfair Snowdown’ – an instrumentally more upbeat song than ‘Rae Street’ – that follows Barnett both congratulating and worrying about someone close to her. Wholesomeness radiates from this track as the listener hears about the craft of whittling and Barnett’s tentative questions surrounding her friend’s wellbeing - “When you sleep, are you warm? Can you feel my cold feet? / Are you good? Are you making ends meet?”. The lyrics here certainly deviate from the assertiveness of some of ‘Tell Me How You Really Feel’, but in this case it is a welcome change, as it demonstrates a different side to Courtney as she looks outward to the world and those closest to her in it. 

‘Things Take Time, Take Time’ also serves as a mark of personal growth for Barnett as she ‘takes time’ reflecting on a turbulent period of her life with unwavering optimism. Highlights include ‘If I Don’t Hear from You Tonight’, a long-distance lockdown love letter to a romantic interest, and ‘Write a List of Things to Look Forward To’, an of-the-times track where Barnett grapples with the realities of the COVID-19 pandemic and staying in touch with loved ones through letters. 

The final song on the record, ‘Oh the Night’, ends with the chorus line “Sorry that I've been slow / You know it takes a little time for me to show how I really feel”. This is a fitting tribute to this project and a direct contrast to her previous album title ‘Tell Me How You Really Feel’. This record is full of longing and hopefulness, impatience and patience. It's made up of personal but relatable scenarios and is a raw and honest showing of Barnett’s hand during the pandemic. Whilst rock-lovers may be slightly underwhelmed by this new musical direction, it is clear that this period of Courtney’s life and the intricate and poetic stories she has decided to share from it could not have been delivered any other way. 


Frankie Golding

Image:  ‘Things Take Time, Take Time’ Official Album Cover


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