NPR Heavy Rotation: Courtney Barnett, ‘Pedestrian At Best’: Witty And All-Too-Uncomfortably Real

Courtney Barnett's new album, Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit', is out March 24 via Mom + Pop.
Courtney Barnett’s new album, Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit’, is out March 24 via Mom + Pop. (Leslie Kirchhoff/Courtesy of the artist)

I wrote a short piece for NPR Music’s Heavy Rotation series on Courtney Barnett’s fantastically wordy new song “Pedestrian At Best” from her new album Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit. You can read that over here.

Below, you can read the fuller version.

There’s no denying Courtney Barnett has a way with a well-turned phrase. Whether she’s recounting an anaphylactic anxiety attack in matter-of-fact detail or delivering mundane observations directly from her hilarious, almost exasperated point-of-view, Barnett’s half-sung, half-spoken lyrics fly by at such a rapid clip that while you’re still chuckling (or cringing) at the previous line, you’ve missed two more gems and have to rewind to further decode.

In the music video for “Pedestrian At Best,” the first new song from Barnett’s upcoming new album, Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit (the follow-up to her 2013 release The Double EP: A Sea of Split Peas), the Melbourne, Australia songwriter dresses as a sad clown, letting her mind wander completely off the chain.

In a glorious stream-of-conscious diatribe to an ex, Barnett spits line after densely-packed line about an existential crisis, running through a laundry list of specific grievances and insecurities about their frayed love-turned-hate relationship. “I must confess I’ve made a mess of what should be a small success, but I digress, at least I tried my very best, I guess,” she muses over a scorchingly heavy guitar riff. And then, she cuts to the heart of where things went wrong: “Put me on a pedestal and I’ll only disappoint you.”

And as a perfect kiss-off stinger, Barnett twists the knife further, “I think you’re a joke, but I don’t find you funny.” Hysterically witty, angsty, and all-too-uncomfortably real, Courtney Barnett proves she’s of the best young lyricists out there.

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