This past week, indie rock artist Courtney Barnett released her third studio album, Things Take Time, Take Time.
Barnett sticks to what has worked for her throughout so much of her discography. Her woeful, power ballad sound is something that she has trademarked on every album. When you hear power chords or riffs with a slew of dreary lyrics about self-discovery and appreciating one’s self-worth, you can tell that a song is identifiable as Barnett’s. She makes sounds that both uplift but are cause for reflection; they are energetic, yet have a confounding progression and shape.
This new album adopts the same types of sound that have built Barnett’s previous albums, but transitions to a new way of presenting them.
That’s not to say that Barnett completely copies sounds on all of her albums. In actuality, all of her albums have unique themes and directions. Each album is presented in a different manner, whether dreamy and easy-going or hard-core with sounds slapping you in the face. As her career progressed and new albums were delivered to the public, Barnett continued to stick to her guns. However, this album is different.
It is a melancholy, yet dreamy display. Barnett uses synth-y vocal backing to create an atmosphere for every song. This trait inflates the sound of each song, taking each to a new dimension, with the backing in each song allowing for a spacey, new-wave type of sound.
One thing that doesn’t change within the album is the sound of the guitar, primarily the lead.
The guitar is something that makes an indie rock album. Especially for Barnett, who creates some of the most wonderfully unique riffs in the indie rock scene. In this album, it’s more of the same. The guitar is grungy, but not sloppy. It’s very clean and you can tell it’s deeply influenced by previous records. One thing that was slightly different in the guitar sound was the rhythm and strum, being slightly lighter than previous records. This paired with the spacey backing inflates the atmospheric components that bolster every song.
Another interesting addition to this album is something that we haven’t seen in any of Barnett’s previous works, yet it adds so much to the album. In this album, Barnett uses drum machines to add to her newfound synthetic sound. It’s such a small detail that plays throughout the album, yet it adds a lot of texture and small details that contribute toward the overall “bedroom pop” sound.
It’s not anything too extreme, as we see in works by artists like Beach House or TV girl, but it’s enough that there could be a small comparison between this project and those artists' work.
Barnett incorporates the bedroom pop sound and adds it to her already grunge indie-rock sound, which elevates both sounds to make one dreamy-sounding rock album. Barnett knows how to make niche sounds that she trademarks, especially now that she's stripped her original sound in previous works down to the bones, while still adding a lot to every song. The songs sound both full and empty at the same time, something that works quite well when you hear the two paired.
For this reason, it can be argued that she’s transitioned away from having an engineered album, as she’s simply taken all the additives out, leaving only what makes music sound interesting and fun.
Barnett embraces the origins of the indie sound, producing a wonderful album that centers around the ideas of time, which is stated within the title of the album. She addresses taking time as a gift, or taking time for yourself or for others, to name a few themes throughout the album. The album perfectly demonstrates both the sound and ideas for relaxation. It clearly meets the mark of the overall theme, and fully encapsulates “taking time.”