‘Things Take Time, Take Time’ uses slower rhythms from guitar, piano, and the drum set to convey the lingering effects of emotional struggles in everyday life.
The Australian rocker’s unique flavour of rock deals with relevant themes for today’s times
By Jonathan Pabico, Senior Columnist
If you’re a fan of the Australian rocker Courtney Barnett, you’ll recognize her iconic deadpan singing style in her work. Her recent album, Things Take Time, Take Time, is no exception and was recently released on November 12 after she worked on it for the last two years. She engages with serious social themes yet balances them with calm rock for therapeutic healing.
Barnett’s vocals are layered with a mixture of laidback, moody, or upbeat guitar strums often found in indie and psychedelic music. This medley is enriched by tonally reserved dynamics from supporting instruments that make her work so enjoyable to hear. Not only are there easygoing drum beats, but even other percussion instruments from bongo drums to a cowbell appearance. This strange collection of sounds shows how Barnett revels in her differences as a musician.
The album also dives into mental health, love, and the growing discomforts of the past. The track “Write a List of Things To Look Forward To” fuses endearing indie rock with discreet synthesizer notes perfect for a coming-of-age film. However, Barnett contradicts this tone with lyrics like “With my head down, my head down/And I’m pushing away, I’m pushing away.” This irony evokes how our desire to stay hopeful is constantly undermined by our need to keep our problems to ourselves, even if we know it’s okay to be open with others.
Barnett explores her regrets and yearning when it comes to love, too. For songs like “Before You Gotta Go”, she uses solemn lyrics with charming psychedelic guitar chords to express her melancholy with past relationships. The album teaches us how our endless search for romantic closure can make us emotionally distant from our present time.
For mental health, Barnett uses this theme the most when closing her playlist with the last few tracks. She unpacks the isolation that comes with depression and low self-esteem. The album uses slower rhythms from guitar, piano, and the drum set to convey the lingering effects of emotional struggles in everyday life. The soundscape is deceptively peaceful to reflect how we all experience mental health issues, even if everything seems fine on the surface.
It’s not all gloom with Barnett as she provides optimism with the most uplifting track in the album, “Take It Day By Day”. Her vocals are sharper rather than downtrodden. There are also more bouncy guitar chords melding with accented drum and cymbal hits. This song encourages you with lyrics like “Don’t give up just yet, you got it/Don’t worry your pretty little head/Soon, you’ll be in bed.” Barnett is reassuring by passing onto us the strength to get through a challenging week of hurdles.
I still prefer Barnett’s previous albums Tell Me How You Really Feel (2018) and Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit (2015). They feel more energetic with tracks that make for fun foot-stompers. Barnett’s newest work Things Take Time, Take Time has bits and pieces of this same tone, but it’s much moodier, which may or may not be what you’re looking for, depending on your day. For me, although this album is terrific and I’ll gladly listen to it again, I like her past work more.
Through her latest work, Courtney Barnett shows us how unabashedly inspiring she is in being the most offbeat rocker she can be. She amazes listeners once again, not by smashing a guitar on stage or belting out angry notes, but with relaxing beats and lots of heart.