Courtney Barnett was the best songwriter to emerge from the 2010s and now she has entered the 2020s with another effort that sails above the malaise of attempted originality with a dollop of scratch-backed prose as naturalistic as a painting hung in the corridors of a Working Men’s Club.
Owing to the strange new way of releasing an album whereby an artist pops one new track onto Spotify each month about five times over before dropping the whole thing, the subdued sound of the record doesn’t come as much of a surprise. The thunderous daring of her little explosive moments on records gone by has largely absconded to the pre-pandemic past making way for an introspective dose of pillow-propped ditties.
As ever with Barnett, she evades the clutches of full-on solemnity even with a submissive restraint tinkering the amps away from distortion and towards the atmospheric, in a wash of light-hearted realism. Playfulness punctuates the poignancy in such a way that we can all not only relate but be very thankful for in these uncertain times.
Accompanying this unspooling meander of modern tentativeness is the instrumentation that also seems trapped in the bedroom state of mind. Along with Barnett you have Stella Mozgawa and together they tinker away here and there with flourishes of soundscapes but otherwise, they stayed lockdown in the simple world that they know. Seemingly, however, anything gaudier would’ve broken the back of these retiring tunes.
The question then might be ‘does it do enough?’. Perhaps it doesn’t in some bold boundary-pushing sense, and maybe it will be overshadowed by her previous outings in time, but that charge is underpinned by the fact that often you are tasked with publishing an opinion on a record and you race into its innovative newness only for the progenitor you championed to fall into the oblivion of a skin-deep affectation once the dust has settled, like a date who tries hard and blinds you with bravura before the slow reveal of the arsehole within commences.
Barnett is never in danger of that. Perhaps some of the songs are a little like demos who’d pull out with a text message saying ‘something has come up’ on the morning of, but they can be forgiven because when all is said and done, you know that Things Take Time, Take Time is a record that you will want to date time and time again. There is a place in any collection for an LP that can be picked up almost mindlessly before the coffee has taken its rightful tole and slapped down haphazardly to pass the time in the familiar bliss of the comforting sonic every day.
In short, if the keyword for the record is vulnerability, then it is a great irony that it takes a songwriter of bold invention to stridently take a step back and sink into the assuredness of her own singular lyrics and let the rest take care of itself. None of these tracks stretches to be anything other than what they are — they don’t have awards, ratings or ground-shaking futures in mind, and that is much to Barnett’s credit, because, in the words of the cheesiest Neighbours boyfriend who was seemingly prattling on in the background when these were written: they are beautiful just the way they are — despite being the wry antithesis of that vomit-inducing line. In other words, Things Take Time, Take Time is a lovely little album.