With the release of her first two critically applauded EPs I’ve Got a Friend Called Emily Farris and How to Carve a Carrot Into a Rose, Melbourne, Australia-based singer/songwriter and guitarist Courtney Barnett quickly received attention from the North American, British and Australian press for a sound that paired witty, rambling, conversational lyrics delivered in an ironic deadpan with big, power chord-based indie rock. And although to some, it may have seemed like overnight success, it actually wasn’t; in fact, Barnett had a long-held reputation as being one of Melbourne’s preeminent guitarists as she had had stints in Dandy Warhols’ Brent DeBoer’s side project Immigrant Union and was a featured player on Jen Cloher‘s third album, In Blood Memory.
Her 2015 full-length release Sometimes I Sit and Think, Sometimes I Just Sit was also released to critical praise, and the album’s lead single “Nobody Really Cares If You Don’t Go To The Party” was promoted with a unique promotional campaign that included scores of giant billboards, posters and murals spontaneously posted around the world — and all of them declared the same unattributed statement in the same exact font. As for the song, Barnett and her backing band paired thundering drums, dense layers of swirling guitar chords and a scorching guitar solo with Barnett’s bemused, ironic deadpan, an infectiously anthemic, arena rock-friendly hook and sonically speaking, the song owed a debt to 120 Minutes-era alternative/indie rock — in particular, it may remind some listeners of Sonic Youth, The Breeders, L7 and others.
The album’s latest single “Elevator Operator” is a stomping and shuffling T. Rex-inspired track that has Barnett and backing band pairing twisting and turning organ chords, handclap-led percussion, a mischievous yet anthemic hook with Barnett’s ironically detached lyrics describing incredibly neurotic people who are at beaten down by boring and soulless day jobs, including a character who escapes to a peer over a rooftop to gain a moment of clarity and dream that he was playing Sim City — and presumably have a few moments of control.
Directed by Sunny Leunig, the son of renowned Australian cartoonist Michael Leunig, who also appears in the video, along with cameos from members of Sleater-Kinney, Kath and Kim‘s Magda Szubanski, Wilco‘s Jeff Tweedy, members of renowned Australian act The Drones, Tim Rogers and Paul Kelly, the recently released video features Barnett a a perpetually harassed and beaten down elevator operator, who encounters a number of surreal and bizarre situations before her and her band do exactly like the song’s character — peering over the edge of a rooftop for clarity.