Courtney Barnett, photo Mia Mala McDonald

Courtney Barnett New Release: Say Less, But Say Exactly What You Feel

by geoffford

Australian singer-songwriter Courtney Barnett releases her third studio album Things Take Time, Take Time on November 12th through Marathon Artists. The album is a finely woven collage of snapshots recorded at a time of creative renewal and deeper understanding for Barnett. The work signals an exciting new chapter for a musician who is operating at the very peak of her powers and it sees her consolidating her place in the storied global lineage of ground-breaking and influential female singer-songwriters.

Over the course of her discography to date, Barnett has made it her mission to record and bear witness to the minutiae and idiosyncrasies of life in all their awkward yet poignant glory. She has a catalogue of songs that are both acutely personal and so beautifully sketched that they can’t help but resonate deeply with the listener. This brings us to her third album.

Things Take Time, Take Time was written over two years and recorded towards the end of 2020 and early 2021 in Sydney, Northern NSW and Melbourne with musical kindred-spirit producer/drummer Stella Mozgawa (Warpaint, Cate le Bon, Kurt Vile). Things Take Time, Take Time is yet another assured leap forward for Barnett, a breakthrough really, but not in the ways you might expect. This is Barnett at her most creative and adventurous, a look into Courtney’s private world and, consequently, her most beautiful and intimate record to date with songs dealing unabashedly with love, renewal, healing and self-discovery.

Album opener, and first single, Rae Street sets the tone, a stirring, mid-tempo essay which details the everyday life of a small community while juxtaposing it against break-neck speed of modern society, particularly with the memorable chorus of “time is money; and money is no man’s friend”. In Barnett’s hands the plaintive lyrics become intensely, strikingly alive, the lyrics use quiet actions and observations to pry open the way in which the human need to connect is often lost amidst the white noise.

Before You Gotta Go, an early highlight, turns a frustrated kiss-off into the most gracious of love songs, atop spare, warm drums and guitar: “If something were to happen my dear, I wouldn’t want the last words you hear to be unkind.” Splendour moves at a snail’s crawl and is one of the most beautiful songs Courtney has ever put to tape. It is not a self-contained novel, like some of her earlier classics: “Remember when we watched that sunset?/Deep in the desert, on the cliff edge/Someday, so soon, I’ll be seeing you.” because you need space to take in that fast-fading sunset.

“Sometimes I try to say everything in one song, or put my whole belief system into a vox pop, but you just can’t do that, it’s impossible,” Courtney says. Things Take Time, Take Time, then, represents a realisation that ideology is represented through the way you treat others, not what you say in a song, that some things are more felt than said.

Sunfair Sundown encompasses this outlook in all its shambolic, easy glory. Riding the steady beat of a drum machine, it’s conversational and kind, deeply in love with the oft-forgotten minutiae of life. “It’s an acceptance of life ambling along, life happens, and you roll with it,” Courtney explains. “The world is so pointless, and so f*cked in so many ways, but there’s so many beautiful little, small moments happening.”

As with so many of the songs on Things Take Time, Take Time, Sunfair Sundown was written for a friend and celebrates the kind of connection that endures across years and life changes. The brightest songs in the set are love letters to friends and to friendship: Write A List Of Things To Look Forward To takes its name from the technique one of Courtney’s friends advocated for to get her out of a depressive funk and paints a bittersweet picture of small wins and the circle of life; the grinning, inevitable live favourite Take It Day By Day was written for a group of friends Courtney would speak to every Tuesday on Zoom, and finds anthemic verve in the act of taking care of those you love. “I found a deeper communication with people in my life, deeper conversations,” she says, “and a new level of gratitude for friendships that had been there for so long that I had maybe taken for granted.”

Courtney Barnett, photo Mia Mala McDonald

And at the heart of Things Take Time, Take Time is a love song, one of Courtney’s first. If I Don’t Hear From You Tonight is effervescent and up-beat in comparison to the rest of the record. “If loving you’s a crime, then gimme those front page headlines,” Courtney sings, aware of the cliche and crushing too hard to care. “I think my stance in the past was like, ‘There’s so many love songs and they don’t mean anything,’ but there’s something really special about zooming in on a moment and capturing it,” she says. “If I Don’t Hear From You Tonight comes from the state of where my head was at, trying to communicate honestly instead of keeping (my feelings) guarded.” It’s not verbose or heady, it’s a profound, joyful, totally joyous song, one about being in love with someone else and in love with the feeling of being in love. It takes life one minute at a time, and, like all of Things Take Time, Take Time presents a value to keep close to your heart: say less, but say exactly what you feel.

Courtney Barnett Things Take Time, Take Time album track listing;

1. Rae Street

2. Sunfair Sundown

3. Here’s the Thing

4. Before You Gotta Go

5. Turning Green

6. Take it Day By Day

7. If I Don’t Hear From You Tonight

8. Write a List of Things to Look Forward To

9. Splendour

10. Oh the Night

Things Take Time, Take Time is released on November 12th through Marathon Artists.