Courtney Barnett was burnt out. She was irritable, angry and frustrated. None of this was pointed at any specific person. It was a natural feeling that could happen to anyone who tours multiple hit records across the world. By 2020, she was ready to give her mind some rewiring.
In the least likely way she should have expected, Barnett was given plenty of alone time at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. She flew to Melbourne, Australia to live by herself for the first time ever. She listened to music she never thought she would have time for and was able to find some solace.
The result is a follow-up to the critically acclaimed Tell Me How You Really Feel. Barnett had zoomed out on her own life, realizing that indeed healing is a process and Things Take Time, Take Time.
The most vulnerability she has ever shown comes on the album’s love songs. “If I Don’t Hear From You Tonight” feels like Barnett is reliving a teenage night spent partying and feeling conflicted about the emotions she has for her crush. She presents the real deep feeling of “like liking” some. Like, really like. It’s upbeat but demonstrates the stress everyone has felt. You are into someone who shows signs of a matching companion but doesn’t give enough clues to hint they are seriously into you too.
“If loving you’s a crime, then gimme those front-page headlines,” Courtney sings, very much aware of how typical she sounds, but too in love to care.
“Before You Gotta Go” also feels like a well-known love song she had already written, except Courtney does not typically write them. That theme sticks out from the others on the record. Though this time, her witty figurative language does not hit the standard she has set and instead sells out for a catchy chorus.
The standard Barnett feeling is not a bad thing, and it’s reflected on the album’s opener, Rae Street. It is supported by a high production of instrumentation and all the charms of a classic Barnett song. It feels comfortably “Courtney.”
That production change was a priority while recording Things Take Time, Take Time.
The first glimpse audiences get of that detail is on the second track, “Sunfair Sundown.” It is more reliant on electronic elements than her past tracks. But it only dips its toe in that water instead of fully embracing it. It’s a short track and doesn’t fulfill the itch it attempts to scratch.
In another more electric song, Barnett does hit the mark by balancing it with her incredible talent on a fuzzy-sounding guitar. “Turning Green” begins with a drum machine’s beat. It’s simple and is matched with an equally minimal bass line. When Barnett begins bringing vocals into the mix, it feels as monotone as the notes being played alongside them and various low and high pitched percussion will keep the listener’s attention. Synths appear to remind the audience this is a different kind of track. But when that electric guitar comes sailing in, it makes you want to lose yourself to a trippy dance and space out. That last-minute is a blissful showcase of the mix-and-match work she can captivate crowds with.
Slower tracks like “Here’s The Thing” see Barnett’s vocals at their most angelic. She hangs on to the words she sings for longer notes. The pitch is so constantly straightforward that it almost feels angelic, but still possesses the personal allure that draws fans to her music. Barnett has never sounded better.
“Write a List of Things to Look Forward To” repeats that idea: she has a great voice. She should show off her peak performance more. If she decides to switch up her entire style, this would be a fine way to do it.
“Take It Day By Day” is a song about perseverance and is something Barnett’s fans will play over and over again. It’s got an iconic guitar around the chorus and a rhythm that only she can get away with. It’s poppier and happy without being cheesy.
She spends time on another lovely little ballad about the feelings you have for someone. “Splendour” explains a familiar situation. You are infatuated with someone but are both busy, maybe live far away and are excited to share brief time together. Then the weekend is suddenly over and it may be weeks before you say hello to their face again. The song is over as quickly as the weekend but gives you the brief closure and magic you desired.
The final track on Things Take Time, Take Time, “Oh the Night,” does not feel like a closer because it’s so simple. It adds average keys to set a sendoff tone that doesn’t feel triumphant enough to catch what it aspires to.
This is definitely a Courtney Barnett sounding record. The lyricism shines through in the Barnett way but welcomes love in a refreshing sense. Those little things add up. From trying more electronic sounds to letting listeners hear her voice at its very best, there are positives that help make this feel a touch different but still the same as past releases. Those little things can make for another groundbreaking release in the future.
Right now, it’s good to have a refreshed Barnett back. If she wants to bring something completely new, it will take time, take time.
Courtney Barnett, Things Take Time, Take Time : 7/10
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