Melbourne singer-songwriter Courtney Barnett is known for her eccentricities lyrically and her deadpan vocal approach. She seems to have really caught on in the US with the release at the end of last year of the Double EP : A Sea of Spilt Peas. This time around its a physical release, so it gives you a chance to rediscover what makes this Aussie starlet shine.
“Out Of The Woodwork” a melancholy number showcases her signature style which is reminiscent of The Shins. Barnett’s slow delivery suits the tone of the song perfectly. The verse has soothing piano and a groovy bass line which is the backdrop to a dreamy and memorable vocal. Lyrically, she deals with her feelings of inadequacy in a relationship and does so with an air of despair. The song rings out with the words “She’s so easy” perfectly capturing this sentiment. The second track “Don’t Apply Compression Gently” is a bit more upbeat but still remains quite laid back. It captures her unique approach to song-writing, but this time the music falls flat.
“Avant Gardener” on the other hand perfectly encapsulates her style of erratic storytelling and quirky accompaniment. The bass drives the song forward with an eerie guitar line that floats in the background. Barnett’s lyrics are a mix between humor, irony, sarcasm and plain crazy. Barnett details here drug use and the high and lows that come with it. One particular low is a perfect example of her smart and humorous lyrics “ The paramedic thinks I’m clever coz I play the guitar, I think she’s clever coz she stops people dying”. It is the best track on the EP for these reasons and is a great track to delve into to the mind of Courtney Barnett.
“Mind Eraser” the next track, packs a punch with a snappy drum beat which has a similar free spirit to the likes of Ida Maria. The chorus has a really catchy air, which is strengthened by group backing vocals all singing “ In my brain I re-arrange the letters on the page to spell your name”. “Anonymous Club” is a great change of pace and overall a beautiful track that showcases Barnett’s versatility but more importantly her vulnerability. The guitar gently strums in the background as the brushes compliment the songs soft and delicate touch.
There are a handful of tracks here though that feel somewhat generic and lack any sense of direction. “David” has a riff that sounds like a Black Key’s rip off. “Lance Jr.” commits a similar crime with a riff that sounds exactly like “Polly” by Nirvana. It seems that when the music on the EP ends up feeling unoriginal it stifles any momentum the song would have had otherwise . Lyrically they take a darker tone and in some way feel out of place here. “Are Your Looking At Yourself” is a strange beast with the regular verse and chorus, but ends up being drawn out with an extended guitar solo which makes the song longer that it needs to be.
“Porcelain” is another lengthy track, but this time it uses its time wisely with a repetitive air that seems to grow as the song progresses. There is an undeniable charm to this track with a jazzy piano section which seems out of place at first, but the way in which it changes the melody makes it even more memorable. The final track “Ode to Odetta” which shows her humour is a breath of fresh air. It has a catchy chord progression with a vocal that for once on the EP has very little reverb. There are a number of backing vocals, which are dealt with in a similar way and it gives it a real choral feel. The makeshift choir sing “Odetta won’t you come home”, as the track neatly rounds off the Double EP.
Overall, The Sea of Spilt Peas Ep is a great induction to the world of Courtney Barnett .It may be a little rough around the edges at times, but Barnett’s unique perspective on modern living, relationships and the more mundane aspects make for a wonderful combination of the crude and crazy.