Courtney Barnett

***Opinions in this article are those of @KralTunes, and not necessarily shared by Tonight At Dawn***

Courtney Barnett is the type of artist that is rarely seen around these musical parts these days: a clever lyricist with an actual message to convey. Her newest album, Sometimes I Sit and Think and Sometimes I Just Sit, has been widely anticipated by critics and music scenesters for quite some time.  For her sake, I hope her offering is enough to please the Indie Rock Gods!

Opener ‘Elevator Operator’ is a ridiculously catchy tune, in spite of the protagonists’ monotonous life cycle and dead-end job:

“Feeling sick at the sight of his computer,

He dodges his way through the Swanston commuters,

Rips off his tie,

Hands it to a homeless man,

Sleeping in the corner of a metro bus stand and he screams,

‘I’m not going to work today,

Going to count the minutes that the trains run late,

Sit on the grass building pyramids out of Coke cans””

First single ‘Pedestrian At Best’ is already a contender for song of the year, and the point in the album where the boss lady over @tonightatdawn started to take notice.  Its sarcastic-tinged lyrics and scruffy guitars harken back to the early-mid 90’s. It also possesses one of the more enduring choruses I’ve heard in a while:

“Put me on a pedestal and I’ll only disappoint you,

Tell me I’m exceptional, I promise to exploit you,

Give me all your money,

and I’ll make some origami,

honey I think you’re a joke,

but I don’t find you very funny”

Guitar solos are abound on the amazing ‘Small Poppies’; it’s a 7-minute bleary epic that immediately takes me back to MAZZY STAR (not sure if this is apropos, since I only know a handful of her material, but these are my thoughts in my own head, so butt out!). I especially enjoy the very last line: “I dreamed I stabbed you with a coat hanger wire (all my married peeps out there know this feeling, amirite?!?!)  If it wasn’t for the awesome-sauce lead single, this would be the album’s best cut.

While some of these songs may sound rhythmically simplistic, its Ms. Barnett’s lyrics that elevate this set of songs into something memorable.  She has a great knack for turning the mundane of everyday life into poetry.  ‘Depreston’ turns a young couple buying their first home into an internal dialogue about the previous elderly owners:

“Then I see the handrail in the shower,

a collection of those canisters for coffee tea and flour,

And a photo of a young man in a van in Vietnam,

And I can’t think of floorboards anymore,

whether the front room faces south or north,

And I wonder what she bought it for.”

Courtney Barnett even manages to touch on more wide reaching societal issues (ENVIRONMENTALIST NERD ALERT!!). ‘Dead Fox’ touches on the shark cull of Australia:

“More people die on the road than they do in the ocean,

Maybe we should mull over culling cars instead of sharks.”

While ‘Kim’s Caravan’ hits on the Great Barrier Reef:

“There’s a paper on the ground,

it makes my headache quite profound,

As I read it out aloud,

It said “The Great Barrier Reef,

it ain’t so great anymore,

It’s been raped beyond belief,

the dredgers treat it like a whore.”

Courtney ends this entrée with a 1-2 punch of despair with the aforementioned track, ‘Boxing Day Blues’, an ode to an over-aspiring partner, whose ideal they will not match. Sometimes I Sit and Think and Sometimes I Just Sit definitely leaves you sitting and thinking.

Lyrically, this is one of the more exceptional albums live head in quite some time.  The music complements the verses almost perfectly every time, making this an early favorite for album of the year contestant, and my new Australian rock music ambassador (move over, ACDC)!!!

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Imagine Dragons: Smoke + Mirrors

IMAGINE DRAGONS: A band that seemingly appeared out of nowhere onto the music landscape, destined to provide us with  gi-normous anthems that are played ad nauseum on seemingly every pop station and CW television series.  Admittedly, I know very little about this group (other than the previous album’s singles), so rather than bore the already initiated, I will simply share the few things I learned while listening to this newest installment:

1.  The group decided to scale back on the grandiose-ness of the debut album a touch, which may have been a smart move, had they actually had the material to pull it off.

2.  They are extremely good at capitalizing on current ‘now’ musical  trends (single ‘I Bet My Life‘ sounds like MUMFORD AND SONS had an epiphany and decided to plug-in their instruments).  Marrying that with the tried and true soaring euphoria that lifts so many a pop song, and they guarantee that they will not fall out of favor with the fan base anytime soon (simultaneously ensuring that no musical evolution will ever be seen).

3.  They do love the hand claps, I mean, really love the hand claps.

Their songs SOUND great: ‘Gold’ has a great stop and go feel with wonderful instrumentation, while ‘I’m So Sorry‘ has a pseudo-bluesy stomping feel, regardless of the useless piano section (as an aside, am I the only one that feels like the final 15 seconds or so sound exactly like MUSE’s ‘Knights of Cydonia?).  Industrial-lite is the thought that keeps cramming itself into my mind while listening to some of these tracks.

This type of bland poppy alt rock doesn’t sit to well with me, as it all feels formulaic and forced  (think THE KILLERS last album).  This is the epitome of safe, ‘I’ll be so grateful to let my teenage children listen to this’ music, which is not a bad thing, as long as you are comfortable with music that takes no chances nor a band that makes any kind of musical progression whatsoever.

The middle-ground plodding ensues.  ‘Polaroid’ sounds like a mash-up of a children’s tune with a drunken bar chorus:

“All my life, I’ve been living in the fast lane
Can’t slow down, I’m a rolling freight train
One more time, gotta start all over
Can’t slow down, I’m a lone red rover.”

The second half of the album really drags, particularly the ‘It Comes Back To You’-‘The Fall’ run…just one middling, slow-paced song after another.  Even moments where lead singer Dan Reynolds tries to lyrically express examples of real-life struggle, it just sounds hollow in front of such a bouncy beat:

“4am beside myself
and what I think of mental health
all the things that worry me
all the things you don’t believe
I’ve been told just what to do
where to look and point my view
all the things that I could be
I think I learned in therapy”

‘Thief’ attempts to bring some energy to the second half, but comes across as just being ‘louder’ than the rest. Closer ‘Warriors’ is about as over the top and melodramatic as any anthem can be, but wow, does that chorus suck,

 “Here We Are, Don’t Turn Away Now/We Are The Warriors That Built This Town”

Obviously, it’s like the logical progression from STARSHIP’S ‘We Built This City’ (it’s really not, but it was the first thing to came to mind).

Saying ‘this album will surely satiate the fan base’ is true, although one cannot be blind to the marked decline in quality from the previous album to this piece.  The highs are definitely not as high as those on ‘NIGHT VISIONS’, but fans will surely lap this up like puppy chow…and thus, the IMAGINE DRAGON gravy train will commence.