Unfortunately, Things Take Time, Take Time is something of a junior slump for the usually impressive Barnett.
Courtney Barnett is back with her third LP, Things Take Time, Take Time, a stripped-down, emotional excavation delivered in her classic deadpan style. Recorded in late 2020/early 2021, Barnett opts for a sparser sound in favor of limiting exposure and the number of people needed in the studio at any given point. And while this production approach makes for her most personal record yet, it also strips away much of what’s made her career so interesting to follow thus far.
Courtney Barnett’s lodestar up until this point has been her unrelenting sincerity. Tracks like “Elevator Operator” and “Depreston” speak to a certain universality while still keeping in place the intimacy of the singer’s original experiences that inspired the tracks. Put simply, there’s no song on Things Take Time, Take Time that proves capable of invoking this same feeling, which was largely what distinguished Barnett from her peers. It’s also not nearly as polished of a record, and while it doesn’t result in an outright bad record, when taken in tandem with its otherwise bland and underwhelming character, it results in a distinctly forgettable listening experience. Absent are the ripping guitars that charge through her earlier albums, here favoring a subdued plodding line instead. The lyrics remain introspective, but fail to speak to any collective body as before, invoking the too-familiar sense of a sophomore slump (so, call this her junior slump). Even singles like “Rae Street,” “Before You Go,” and “Write a List of Things to Look Forward to” lack any fresh appeal. Barnett is clearly a talented musician, based on her previous albums and early attention-grabbing EPs, but her necessary bite is absent on TTTTT, her unique indie rock voice tenderized and pacified into homogenous background noise.
If that scans as a bit harsh, it’s a product of the album’s disheartening cumulative effect; it’s frustrating to listen to each song fall just a little bit short of its potential time after time here. Barnett is an artist who, for better or worse, swims in a sea of indie rock guitarists working within a similar sound, and her transcendent attributes have always been her near-spoken vocal and buzzing guitars that guide tracks and albums through. In losing hold of those linchpins, she loses something of her artistic thread, and while she grapples with ideas of greatness on Things Take Time, Take Time, it’s evident that she hasn’t yet reached such heights. The hope, then, must be that all this coasting on her third record will afford her the energy to truly lay rubber on the next.
Published as part of Album Roundup — November 2021 | Part 3.