A Sea of Split Peas

by Tucker Chet Marcus

It wanders. Through a cloud of foggy reverb, scratching guitar, and halfway sing-speaking is found Courtney Barnett’s double EP, A Sea of Split Peas. It’s a hundred mile an hour stream of consciousness strapped to rusty pickups and evenings in.

Barnett, as Australian as the way she sings the word “to-mah-to” might suggest, captures the roaming lilt of Dylan and the twang of a sun-beat countryside. Released last fall, A Sea of Split Peas is nomadic, not aimless. It billows with images and story and musings, without pomp or ego. It’s a picture of dust rising off of clay in the Australian countryside.

The ballast of A Sea of Split Peas sways from careening testimonies pitched on messy cymbal crashes to halcyon and heartfelt missives pinned with brushed snares. The EP begins from the heights of “Avant Gardener,” a digressive (and, in passing, seriously funny) account about an anaphylactic asthma attack during a heat-wave. It's lit up, not by the action, but by Barnett’s captivating inner consciousness. Key lyric: “The paramedic thinks I’m clever ‘cause I play guitar / I think she’s clever ‘cause she stops people dying.”

We then move across to “Anonymous Club”—soft, sitting with a loosely-held guitar, leaning back on the sofa. “Turn your phone off friend / You’re amongst friends and we don’t need no interruptions.” There’s a simplicity and earnestness in Barnett’s voice. It feels real. Tangible.

A Sea of Split Peas swings from a bounding rearview window on the rusty-red outback to daydreams trying to avoid light through the blinds. Guided by the narration—or singing—of Barnett, we find that both, via her hundred mile an hour mind, are equally as exciting.