Thursday, July 17, 2014

"If you've got a spare half a million..."

A little over a year of satellite radio service and it's proven to have introduced me to quite a few records that I otherwise would have probably paid no mind to. The Cayucas album is in heavy rotation at the Blackwell house (being a particular favorite of Violet's) and I don't absolutely hate Foxygen either.

One of the most pleasant surprises has been Courtney Barnett. I feel like I first heard "Avant Gardener" about six months ago on Sirius and my immediate reaction was that I was surprised to hear something that belied a sort of substance on the XMU channel. I heard it a couple more times and painted a picture in my mind...Courtney was some sort of exhibitionist tart, "fake", too good to be true... just all kinds of things that would make me not like her. Almost as if I didn't want to even give her a chance.

I bought the vinyl of The Double EP: A Sea of Split Peas, listened once, didn't hate it, and filed away. A last-minute in-store in Nashville was enough to bring me out to investigate further. I found the simplicity and bare-bones feeling of her songs performed without additional accompaniment was far more intriguing than the full-band backing on the recordings.

It all came to a head with the last song she played, a yet-to-be-released song called "Depreston." Courtney explained that Preston is a neighborhood in Melbourne and the song is about the task of trying to find a place to live. The structure of the song almost feels a bit off, like each verse is missing a line, that's it's still in progress. That lends a certain beauty to it, in addition to the poignant observational lyrics, with just enough winking wit to keep you paying attention.

The final lines, sung about a house, repeated, repeated, repeated, burrowed into my head.

If you've got a
spare half a million
you could knock it down
and start rebuilding

Maybe it's because that's exactly what seems to be happening in my neighborhood in East Nashville. Maybe it's the ever-so-percpible lilt of an Australian accent that renders "half" as "hoff." Maybe it's through some sort of quirk in the cosmos that Barnett seems to inhabit and mean every single word she sings. I don't know. I just know that over a month later and this song has not left my head for more than a day. I can't remember a new song that I so quickly learned all the words to. 

Funny thing is for an unreleased song Courtney seems to be playing this thing every damn opportunity she gets. Having delved through at least half-a-dozen different performances, I feel like the one embedded above, has a little magic that seems missing from the others. Here's hoping you enjoy it half as much as I have.