Courtney Barnett is great. Leonard Cohen is great. What’s not to love?
Like many of Cohen’s best songs, “So Long, Marianne” makes longing feel palpable. And Barnett gets to the heart of that.
Your letters they all say that you’re beside me now
Then why do I feel alone?
I’m standing on a ledge and your fine spider web
Is fastening my ankle to a stone.
Marianne, of course, was a real person. Cohen met her on the Greek island of Hydra in 1960 after her husband had abandoned her and her infant son. She and Cohen stayed together throughout much of the decade and she inspired many of his songs.
On her deathbed in 2016 Cohen sent her a note that went viral after he died a few months later. “I’m just a little behind you, close enough to take your hand,” he wrote. “I’ve never forgotten your love and your beauty. But you know that.”
Directed by Danny Cohen. Single out now on Milk! Records, Marathon Artists and Mom+Pop.
It’s been five or six years since I first heard “History Eraser” on satellite radio. That song immediately won me over and I’ve been following Courtney Barnett ever since. Her sardonic wit has grown darker over the years, which makes sense when you consider what the world looks like today compared to 2012 when she started releasing solo material.
I go to Loving Hut, I get my hair cut, I feel the same
I feel putrid, I’m getting used to it these days
No word on whether this is a standalone single or a preview of an upcoming album but Barnett will be touring nonstop through the summer, including a visit to Ann Arbor’s famed Hill Auditorium, hailed as a monument to perfect acoustics. She’s there on a Tuesday night so I probably won’t make it, but you should go! I saw Bruce Springsteen there on the Tom Joad Solo Acoustic tour, and it was a magical experience, even deep in the cheap seats.
Warning: This YouTube instructional video does not actually teach you how to play the song. That said, Courtney Barnett is super charming and funny and could easily become a superstar YouTuber if that’s what she wanted to do. I wonder if she plays Minecraft or Fortnite…
The verses of this sound like a Kurt Vile song.
I got a lot on my mind
But I dunno how to say it
I know you’re doin’ your best
I think you’re doin’ just fine
Courtney Barnett is a treasure. “City Looks Pretty” is the third single from her upcoming album, Tell Me How You Really Feel, and this one is as great as the previous two.
The city looks pretty when you been indoors
For 23 days I’ve ignored all your phone calls.
Everyone’s waiting when you get back home
They don’t know where you been, why you gone so long.
Kim Deal has a funny quote about Barnett in the recent Mojo magazine: “I’m suspicious of her. She seems so casual and relaxed, but she gets so much done and she’s always doing something. There’s no way she can be so relaxed, right? […] I feel like there’s an element of obsessive-compulsive disorder to her lyrics that is really compelling to me.”
It would be fun to compile a playlist of all the songs about how hard it is to be a rock star. Start with Seger’s “Turn the Page,” obviously. Throw in “Across the Sea” by Weezer and pretty much the entire In Utero album. I’m sure the struggle is real, but it always kind of makes you roll your eyes a little.
Courtney Barnett tackles the subject from a different angle. She’s addressing the artist/fan relationship in the era of social media.
I don’t know a lot about you but
You seem to know a lot about me so
I take a little time out, I take a little time out
Barnett understand what would drive a celebrity to go off the rails and act crazy.
Shave your head to see how it feels
Emotionally it’s not that different
But to the hand it’s beautiful
You seem to have the weight of the world
Upon your bony shoulders well hold on
You need a little time out
I’ve always stuck up for Britney Spears who notoriously went bald in 2007 and has been under conservatorship ever since. People have always been unnecessarily mean to her. I think Courtney Barnett agrees.
Don’t you have anything better to do?
I wish that someone would hug you
Must be lonely
It’s the same bruised ego bullshit, and men need to man up and be better human beings. I realize the first reaction is to get defensive when you get called out for bad behavior, but we’ve all gotta work on that. Let’s all try to be a lot cooler.