Things Take Time, Take Time
Mom+Pop · November 12, 2021
It may initially be hard to digest that this surprisingly soothing collection is from the same artist best known for the palpable anger in “Pedestrian at Best,” but Things Take Time, Take Time is still classic Courtney Barnett, down to its whimsical lyrics, deadpan delivery, and unique energy.
Things Take Time, Take Time is an introspective, delicate, and intensely personal portrayal of loneliness, insecurity, and, above all, patience. Perhaps the most private aspect of the album is the way that the songs function as letters to specific people. While singing to a general “you” is commonplace in music, Barnett has admitted that some of the songs serve as letters addressed to her friends or to herself. With this in mind, it becomes easy to see Things Take Time, Take Time as one side of a conversation; with lyrics that directly address some unknown subject with advice, questions, and general small talk that build an air of authenticity.
Things Take Time, Take Time is the kind of album that necessitates a full listen in one sitting. As one song transitions to the next, the overall tone of the album shifts repeatedly – starting on a depressing note and ending slightly hopeful. “Rae Street,” the album’s opening track, is undoubtedly the bleakest in the collection, though still immensely catchy. Barnett sounds hopeless, surveying the pain and monotony in the world around her, and constantly waiting “for the day to become night.” This is a theme that is repeated throughout the album with Barnett emphasizing these harmful depressive and isolating cycles.
There is a heart-breaking loneliness to lines like, “at the end of the day you’re awake with your thoughts and I don’t want you to be alone,” especially as Barnett intentionally blurs the lines of who these lyrics are addressed to. And in “Take it Day by Day,” the chorus is essentially an excerpt from a phone call of one friend checking in on another’s health. “Tuesday night, I’m checking in / just to see how you’re going / are you good? / Are you eating? / I’ll call you back next week.” Barnett echoes these lines throughout the song, mimicking the repetitive cycle of trying to help someone who is stuck in an inescapable rut. Quintessentially, that is the core of Things Take Time, Take Time, recognizing the sometimes oppressive consistency of time, and yearning to build valuable relationships and meaning despite the constant passing of it.
The album closes with a small victory, as Barnett reinvents the way she measures time. In “Oh the Night,” the closing track, Barnett talks again to an unknown subject, this time proposing the idea of creating her “own time zone.” As Barnett takes control of her time in the closing lines, there is an undeniable satisfaction to the bittersweet idea of doing things on your own clock, even if it takes time.
Things Take Time, Take Time is Barnett’s most thoughtful and devastatingly honest album to date. While it’s nowhere near as rowdy as some of her previous installments, it comes equipped with an immediate sense of nostalgia and heartbreak that is sure to render the album an instant classic. Instrumentally, the album is stripped-down, with an uncharacteristically muted guitar, sparse drums, and Barnett’s voice at the forefront, somehow retaining her iconic restrained vocal range while simultaneously spanning a wide emotional one. Even with the tonal shift of this album, Barnett still clearly occupies her niche brand of indie rock talk-singing, just with distinctly sadder undertones. Things Take Time, Take Time is decidedly calmer but no less exciting than Courtney Barnett’s previous work, and, although it may not be exactly what long-time Barnett fans expected from the artist’s third album, it feels raw, relevant, and well worth the wait.