If there’s a word for Courtney Barnett‘s third album, it would probably be ‘reflective’. Like most of the records (and indeed art in general) released during this year, the shadow of the pandemic hangs heavy – Barnett wrote most of Things Take Time, Take Time while isolating alone in a Melbourne apartment – throw in a recent break-up, and it’s no surprise that this record is heavy on the introspection.
Luckily, there aren’t many better songwriters who can write such introspective, naturalistic songs so well. After all, this is the artist made her name with a song about having an asthma attack while doing some gardening which ended up being one of the best songs of recent time. So songs about staring out of the window, watching the world go by, and contemplating whether to change her bed sheets (which is what this album’s opening track Rae Street is about) end up sounding completely compelling in Barnett’s hands.
Recorded without a band – the Warpaint drummer Stella Mozgawa is the only other musician on the album, who also acts as co-producer with Barnett – the general vibe is languid and quiet. There’s certainly nothing as explosive as Pedestrian As Best or Nobody Really Cares If You Don’t Go To The Party, instead the contemplative tone of the likes of Depreston is prevalent on this record.
It also contains some of her best songs in some while. You won’t find many break up songs as simple yet heartbreaking as Here’s The Thing (“Here’s the thing, can’t stop thinking about you”) or a number so charming about the hesitancy of new love like If I Don’t Hear From You Tonight (“Is now an ok time to tell you that I like you?”). The bouncing indie pop of Write A List Of Things To Look Forward To is another highlight, while there are several songs that sound like Barnett’s writing some self-help to the listener: Take It Day By Day’s lines about “Are you good, are you eating, I’ll call you back next week” being just one endearing example.
What gives Things Take Time, Take Time an extra layer is the emotional weight behind many of these songs. Barnett is such a self-effacing presence that this emotion can be easy to miss, but it’s written all over the album. Turning Green has a darker tone than the rest of the record, which makes it stand out even more, while just to hear her sing “I’m really going to miss you” on Splendour with just the right degree of yearning is genuinely affecting.
Despite its relatively short running time, and the low-key nature of the songs, this third album sounds like a big step forward for Barnett – a move away from the stream of consciousness delivery of her early days and a step towards sincere contemplations of matters of the heart. Things Take Time, Take Time is a tender, comforting salve of a listen, and will be one of those albums that you keep returning to when life seems a bit too much.