Courtney Barnett

The Double EP: A Sea of Split Peas

House Anxiety/Marathon Artists

Oct 24, 2013 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

On her recorded output to date, singer/songwriter Courtney Barnett has shaped an identity with too many edges to neatly define her. Confine her to handling only an acoustic guitar and she might naturally be grouped with folky forebears, but the two releases combined here for what will be her introduction to many suggest that the 25-year-old Australian is already well on her way toward further blurring any reference points.

A Sea of Split Peas combines her self-released 2012 EP I've Got a Friend Called Emily Ferris and this year's follow-up, the EP How to Carve a Carrot Into a Rose. The opening line of her first single, "Lance Jr," garnered some attention: "I masturbated to the songs you wrote/Resuscitated all of my hopes," she sings over an electric guitar riff that, appropriately for the subject, echoes Nirvana's "About a Girl." "It felt wrong but it didn't take too long/Much appreciated all your songs."

Barnett is at her most compelling when she locks into blasts of verses that sound like life-referencing, stream-of-consciousness outpourings and are delivered over psych-smeared, full-band backing. On "History Eraser" (a 2013 nominee for Australia's APRA Song of the Year award), Barnett settles into spoken vocals reminiscent of Jim Carroll's urgent delivery as she tears from one bit of fringe-dwelling imagery to another. "Avant Gardener," cut from similar cloth, finds Barnett sounding as woozy as her lyrical account.

Where a song like "Don't Apply Compression Gently" is lighter in tone, Barnett seems comfortable whipping the wheel for an unexpected curve, as with the guitar meltdown that closes "Canned Tomatoes (Whole)." Overall, the dozen songs gathered here serve Barnett well in providing a set that's as multifaceted as their creator appears to be. (

Author rating: 7.5/10

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