Avant Gardener

Jam of the Week

This week’s jam of the week comes from Australian folk singer Courtney Barnett. She was nominated for a Grammy as “Best New Artist.” She’s got a unique, recognizable voice and delivery. Her lyrics are inarguably clever and often funny.  In the U.S., she is most known for her song “Pedestrian at Best.” I first discovered her with this track “Avant Gardener,” a song about having an asthma attack on a summer day.

A few of my favorite lyrics & Why

The yard is full of hard rubbish. It’s a mess and/                                                                                          I guess the neighbors must think we run a meth lab.                                                                             We should amend that. I pull the sheets back[…]

WHY: Here, Ms. Barnett puts the accent on sounds in a way that almost makes it sound like a rhyme (slant rhyme and assonance, if you want to get technical). The way she makes “mess and” into a slant rhyme with “meth lab” and “amend that” is comical, smart, and fun.

The paramedic thinks I’m clever ‘cuz I play guitar.                                                                                      I think she’s clever ‘cuz she stops people dying. 

WHY: Funny. Just funny and yet reminds me a bit of the grass is always greener idea. It’s easier to be impressed by others than ourselves.

I take a hit from an asthma puffer.                                                                                                                   I do it wrong. I was never good at smoking bongs.                                                                                 I’m not that good at breathing in. 

WHY: Hilarious. But the real magic happens because this is a great example of how she makes this song, which is about a very specific event (an asthma attack), more universal. For example, there are lots of reasons we might forget to breathe properly. People with anxiety get tense and don’t breathe deeply. I’m prone to anxiety, and I’ve often felt like “I’m not that good at breathing in.”


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