Let’s just get this out of the way at the top: Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit is one of the greatest record titles since Yo La Tengo’s classic I Am Not Afraid of You And I Will Beat Your Ass. It’s a slyly self-deprecating line and it immediately illustrates Courtney Barnett‘s penchant for the wryly downtrodden- something she exploits the absolute hell out of in both the clip for “Pedestrian At Best” and the actual song. Even though we’re not even a full two months into 2015, “Pedestrian At Best” already seems to be occupying space in an upper-upper-tier register that precious few others have reached (Will Butler’s absurdly likable clip for the equally likable “Anna” being a definite candidate). What immediately makes “Pedestrian At Best” stand out is that it’s the most cutting thing in Barnett’s increasingly enviable discography. As if the frighteningly sharp teeth of the music wasn’t enough, this is easily the most unleashed and verbose Barnett’s allowed herself to be lyrically as well, occasionally bringing to mind a Stage Names-era Will Sheff at his most fearlessly unhinged.
As genuinely great as “Pedestrian At Best” is on its own, it’s the clip that renders this a definitive entry for Barnett’s early career. Emphatically punctuating Barnett’s stylistic tendencies, it balances a tautly-drawn tightrope between an abysmally bleak worldview and entertainingly subtle, tongue-in-cheek humor that continuously keeps things balanced. In a surprisingly compelling performance as the “Clown of 2013” that seems to pull a lot of inspiration from silent film’s golden era, Barnett gets to unleash a clever commentary on the nature of the indie press hype cycle and never falls out of focus. It’s that same cleverness that elevated her to her current status as one of today’s more revered young songwriters, it’s just coming across as slightly more refined. The band Barnett’s surrounded by (often quasi-sardonically referred to as “The Barnetts”) sounds like their matching her stride for stride in terms of ascending sharpness. Importantly, “Pedestrian At Best” also suggests that Barnett’s growing more spirited and vibrant as her career progresses, which could yield towering dividends for her future. We’re lucky to have a songwriter- and band- like this to claim for our generation- “Pedestrian At Best”, if anything, is an exacting reminder of why.
Watch “Pedestrian At Best” below and pre-order Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit here.