Courtney Barnett, the Australian indie rocker, released the second single off of Sometimes I Sit and Think and Sometimes I Just Sit. Her first single, “Pedestrian at Best,” gave us the in-your-face, grungy, and edgier side to Courtney Barnett, but the second one is drastically reduced. “Depreston” is an easygoing and gentle snapshot story about Preston, a suburb in Melbourne. Its guitar is as delicately intricate as Real Estate, with the vibrantly observational wordplay akin to Conor Oberst. The song is about Barnett and her partner looking for a place to live outside of the city, and Barnett’s negative first reactions to a new place that feels lackluster and bleak.
First of all, “Depreston” is a lyrically realized and rich story that Barnett has so quickly perfected in her short career. While the old phrase, “a picture tells a thousand words,” seems like a good descriptor for what she is doing here, Courtney Barnett paints a complete story with much less words. Her word choice is very specific, and in a few verses, we understand the story, who the characters are, and where her current mood is. Barnett is house hunting in a humdrum town, far from where she wants to be.
At first, Courtney Barnett is trying to make the most of her situation as she pontificates how it’ll save her some money, because she won’t be able to spend so much at the inner-city coffee shops in Melbourne. “Now we’ve got that percolator, never made a latte greater / I’m saving twenty three dollars a week.” Although she is focusing on the positives, the lackluster amount of twenty-three dollars tell us that Courtney Barnett is making more of a mockery of her current financial situation, and she’s not very thrilled about relocating to Preston.
Later, Courtney Barnett sees police arrest a man who stole a handbag outside their first house, which doesn’t ease her mind at all. “How’s that for first impressions? This place seems depressing / It’s a Californian bungalow in a cul-de-sac.” Typically, Californian bungalows were built around the early 1900s; thus, Barnett is not excited about living in a home that’s feels as dated and decrepit as it looks.
As the song progresses, we realize that the house is from a deceased person, and, oddly, we find Barnett a little more intrigued by these circumstances. Although the underlying sarcasm and disdain are still there, her focus on specifics and history tell us that she’s at least opening up to the idea of rebuilding a new life with her partner.
Barnett’s casual and soft-spoken story on “Depreston” is as much of a song as it is an image plucked ripe from her memories. It’s gorgeously delicate, sympathetically humorous, and vividly told. It’s yet another very strong point of view from the Australian newcomer, and something tells me that her debut album, out later this month, will find her tugging on our indie hearts.