Album Review: Things Take Time, Take Time by Courtney Barnett
Very Good, Based on 7 Critics
musicOMH.com - 80 Based on rating 4
If there’s a word for Courtney Barnett‘s third album, it would probably be ‘reflective’. Like most of the records (and indeed art in general) released during this year, the shadow of the pandemic hangs heavy – Barnett wrote most of Things Take Time, Take Time while isolating alone in a Melbourne apartment – throw in a recent break-up, and it’s no surprise that this record is heavy on the introspection. Luckily, there aren’t many better songwriters who can write such introspective, naturalistic songs so well.
If you thought a year indoors had brought you back to square one, spare a thought for Courtney Barnett. As the world shut down, the Melbourne songwriter had gone through a break-up, prepared to move to the other side of the world, and watched swathes of her country catch fire. Once the plans to move to Los Angeles were put on ice, so too was a rough attempt at a third album.
The cornucopia of pandemic-era recordings is beginning to produce a bumper crop. The past 18 months or so have been earmarked by rising anxieties, personal stresses, and a whole host of ideological differences. So what we might not have seen coming are a growing number of albums characterized by a forced stillness and time to rest and reflect. This should have been obvious given the number of artists that have been on a treadmill of producing records and endlessly touring in support of them.
Opening the narrative with a lamentation on simple things, "Rae Street" takes a deep dive into "stepping back and smelling the roses". Embracing the mundanity of everyday tasks, Barnett launches a discourse on changing the bedsheets before delving into the often-avoided subject of money. Her vocals are instantly recognisable, with her sultry raspy intonations breathing life into every word against the backdrop of an insatiable bass line that completes the mellow overtone.
When Courtney Barnett takes a solo in the last half of "Turning Green," it evokes the two-note grubbiness of guitarist Pete Shelley's work on the Buzzcocks' "Boredom." Barnett's songs depend on moments when she trusts her instrument to become more than an extension of herself: Her guitar work functions as a pungent second voice, more demonstrative than the Daria-style talk-sing in which she's most comfortable. Things Take Time, Take Time doesn't have enough of these moments. Wedded to the percussion-and-singer-plus-accompanist format, Barnett sounds marooned.
Courtney Barnett's best songs twist fleeting moments into profound observations -- like the way she turned a real estate hunt into a heart-wrenching meditation on mortality, or when she paused for an exchange of mutual admiration with a "clever" paramedic during a near-death experience.
Those moments, which seemingly used to come so easily for Barnett, are conspicuously missing from Things Take Time, Take Time. Instead, the social critiques of "Rae Street" are pedestrian at best, as Barnett parrots a popular activist talking point when she sings, "All our candles, hopes and prayers / Though well-meaning, they don't mean a thing / Unless we see some change.
Taking notice of the mundane has always been something Courtney Barnett has excelled at. For her third album, 'Things Take Time, Take Time', she has used the same observation techniques as felt in her previous work whilst at the same time completely changing the narrative of its overarching conception and therefore going in a different direction. The Australian singer-songwriter's latest effort is not filled with references of all the darkness that resides in the world or the utmost beautiful desperation found in loneliness and self-doubt, instead it's about finding love in the small, every-day things.