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Courtney Barnett

Australian singer-songwriter with a penchant for storytelling and spilling the beans on being drunk (`History Eraser’) and having an anaphylactic panic-attack (`Avant Gardener’), girl-next-door-like COURTNEY BARNETT is a star in waiting – or if you’re reading this in 2020, an accomplished 30-something with a million followers on “TwitbookSpace”. Crystal ball and prophecies aside, she’s already stirred up a hornet’s nest of predictions from both home and away.
Born in the Northern Beaches of Sydney (on 3 November 1987), Courtney kicked off her career by playing second guitar in garage-grunge combo Rapid Transit (alongside frontman Chris Cecchini, drummer Jack Spiker and Dr. Pauly), who delivered only one cassette before she decided to team up with The DANDY WARHOLS’ Brent DeBoer in Portland, US-based psych-country band Immigrant Union. While drummer DeBoer played on her self-financed debut EP on Milk! Records: `I’ve Got A Friend Called Emily Ferris’ (2012) – alongside others in the band, Alex Hamilton (guitar) and Pete Convery (bass) – BARNETT continued to work in a bar in hometown Hobart to support her raising money as an independent artist. The 6-track EP itself slow-burned into the minds of her new-found followers; the tongue-in-cheek masturbating connotations (as a substitute for sleeping pills) on opener `Lance Jr’, very much in the mould of Kurt Cobain, while there was 7 minutes each allocated to the SHERYL CROW-esque `Are You Looking After Yourself’ and the new country-ish `Porcelain’.
Subsequently sharing a single (`History Eraser’) with her fellow singer-songwriter, live-in partner JEN CLOHER, and unleashing a CD-r of `Avant Gardener’, Courtney’s life as a bona fide artist was heading in the right direction. Adding both Bones Sloane (bass/vocals) and Dan Luscombe (guitar/vocals/keyboards) to new drummer David Mudie, her next release, the excellent `How To Carve A Carrot Into A Rose’ EP, would prove crucial in setting out her stall as one to watch. Alongside her most recent aforementioned singles, the poignantly-named opener `Out Of The Woodwork’ could well’ve come from the pen of PJ HARVEY, while `Don’t Apply Compression Gently’ had all the hallmarks of a KIMYA DAWSON track. Down the line a little and with a glam beat to make one think twice that it wasn’t a mishmash of SWEET’s `Blockbuster’ and a SHERYL CROW song, `David’ preceded the beautifully textured `Anonymous Club’. Thankfully, to save these seminal songs from extinction and, in a mood to move on into pastures new, the 12 tracks were spread over what many would see as her debut album, THE DOUBLE EP: A SEA OF SPLIT PEAS (2013) {*8}.
Signed to Mom + Pop Music in the US and House Anxiety Records in the UK, anticipation was rife for the unassuming lass – who’d lost none of her Aussie brogue and brass – to explore her wry and witty alt-rock. SOMETIMES I SIT AND THINK, AND SOMETIMES I JUST SIT (2015) {*8} went down a storm down under, but it also shook up the sometimes stale “indie rock” fraternity of Britain and the States who bowed to her observational insight and candor on the likes of `Pedestrian At Best’, `Elevator Operator’, the 7-minute guitarrismo of `Small Poppies’ and the KIMYA DAWSON-like `Depreston’. Along with the grungy/stoner `Kim’s Caravan’ and the rambling icing on the cake, `Boxing Day Blues’, the album will take a lot of beating in the end of year lists. Not since the post-grunge days of LIZ PHAIR, CAT POWER, ALANIS MORISSETTE et al emerged on to the scene had we witnessed such a sharp and incisive “rock” artist in answer to the plethora of dance artists littering the market.
On the back of a 50/50 collaborative set alongside American KURT VILE (`Lotta Sea Lice’ issued in autumn 2017), COURTNEY BARNETT finally unveiled her sophomore solo set. The Top 10 (US Top 30), TELL ME HOW YOU REALLY FEEL (2018) {*7}, had all the post-punk/grunge elements of its predecessor (colourful lyrics and gutsy guitar); but were the songs strong and effective enough to hook in a larger audience… the jury was out, possibly considering the merits of earworms, `I’m Not Your Mother, I’m Not Your Bitch’, `Crippling Self-Doubt And A General Lack Of Confidence’ (ft. BREEDERS Kim and Kelley Deal), `Charity’, `Need A Little Time’ and finale `Sunday Roast’.
© MC Strong/MCS Mar2015-May2018

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