NEW YORK, Jan 26, (Agencies): Even with rock ‘n’ roll on the outskirts of popular music today, you can still pass by thousands of garages pulsing with the sharp, guitar-based sound favored by Courtney Barnett and her band. What sets Barnett apart, and earned the 28-year-old Australian a Grammy nomination for best new artist, is her distinctive songwriting. Her compositions are packed with details, with inventive twists that turn stories like a respiratory attack or search for a suburban home into compelling listening.
The song “Avant Gardener” introduced her to an American audience two years ago, the tale of an ambulance visit unfolding with poignant and amusing asides. “The paramedic thinks I’m clever ‘cause I play guitar,” she sings. “I think she’s clever ‘cause she stops people dying.” With her debut album, “Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit,” that was among the most highlyregarded of 2015, Barnett proved she wasn’t a fl uke. The singer, who lives in the Melbourne area, said she was infl uenced by the storytelling ability of fellow Australian Paul Kelly and the quirky sensibility of American Jonathan Richman.
“I’ve messed around with a lot of different styles of songwriting,” she said by phone. “I just found when I pulled it apart and slowed it down and just focused on the small details, it was a lot more therapeutic for me and made more sense.” Kelly, one of Australia’s most respected singer-songwriters, said Barnett has mapped out her own territory. “Like all great songwriters she creates a world,” Kelly said in an email interview. “It’s a familiar world but also completely idiosyncratic. She demonstrates the voraciousness of genius. Anything and everything can be devoured and spat out in a song. I wish I’d written ‘Nobody Really Cares If You Don’t Go to the Party.’” Barnett is capable of Elvis Costellolike wordplay, like this couplet from “Pedestrian at Best”: “I must confess, I’ve made a mess of what should be a small success.
But I digress, at least I’ve tried my very best, I guess.” She’s rarely that showy, however. Her observations often seem offhand, disguising the amount of work that went into them. Details bring the story in “Elevator Operator” alive, about a friend who went to a building’s roof to take in the view when a businesswoman mistook him for a potential jumper. “A tortoise shell necklace between her breasts, she looks him up and down with a Botox frown,” Barnett sings. “Depreston” conveys complex emotions, when the narrator imagines the life of a potential home’s previous occupant.
Barnett said she didn’t grow up around much music, but was infl uenced by tapes of guitar-based acts like Nirvana, Metallica and Jimi Hendrix that were given to her and her brother. She learned of her best new artist nomination at the end of a long fl ight home, when her drummer checked his phone and exclaimed, “Oh, my God. You’re nominated for a Grammy.” “It’s a hugeness of recognition,” she said. “It’s great. Ten-year-old me didn’t think I’d be growing up to be nominated for a Grammy.” She’s taking some down time back home to write songs.
She runs a small record label and also plays in a duo with her girlfriend Jen Cloher. Barnett earned a nomination for international female solo artist at the Feb 24 BRIT Awards against Bjork, Lana Del Rey, Ariana Grande and Meghan Trainor. On the Grammys, which will take place in Los Angeles on Feb 15, she’ll compete for best new artist with James Bay, Sam Hunt, Tori Kelly and Trainor. “I think we’re going to come over and drink some champagne, or whatever it is you do at the Grammys,” Barnett said.
NEW YORK: Spotify said Monday it will imminently launch video content as the music streaming leader seeks ways to build an audience in the increasingly competitive sector. The Swedish company will begin webcasting videos by the end of next week on both Android and Apple system smartphones, a Spotify spokesman said. The videos will initially be available in four markets — Britain, Germany, Sweden and the United States. Spotify’s chief executive Daniel Ek had announced the expansion into video in May during an event in New York on the company’s future plans, although he did not give a timeframe and the company has been testing its offerings. Spotify at the time said that it would offer exclusive content from media partners as well as existing production and podcasts.
Media companies involved in Spotify’s video plans include major US networks, the BBC, sports leader ESPN, documentary news site Vice and comedy channel Adult Swim. The Wall Street Journal quoted Spotify’s vice president of product, Shiva Rajaraman, as saying the primary audience would still be music fans. The company, the report said, will air original music-themed series but most video will consist of short snippets. Spotify is the leader of the fastgrowing sector of streaming. The company says it has more than 75 million regular users, of whom 20 million pay subscriptions for advertisement-free access.
The company, which is privately held, does not release its earnings but is widely believed to be gambling that it can invest heavily initially and turn a profi t later. Smaller rivals have invested heavily in video as a way to win over customers. Apple Music, which launched in June, recently offered an exclusive tour movie by pop superstar Taylor Swift. Tidal, led by rap mogul Jay Z, has gone a step further by exclusively webcasting series without a direct music link including the drug-dealing drama “Money and Violence.” Online content giant YouTube also recently launched a music streaming site, which lets users toggle between videos and audio-only tracks.