1. The Farm
  2. Paintbrushes
  3. Yesterday and Today
  4. Crazy
  5. Cherry Red Wine Lips
  6. Queen Cherry Red
  7. The Beach Song
  8. Cool Wave
  9. Chill Out
  10. Afternoon
  11. The Gate
  12. Marlborough Farms
  13. Bubbles
  14. Four Nicks Up
  15. The Show Must Go On
  16. Upstairs in My Room
  17. Sewing Machine
  18. Roll On Home

PSR017

Michael Barrett
“Couches & Carpet”

Released May 2001
Produced by Michael Barrett

Michael's three year opus recorded in studios around Brooklyn, NY. "Couches and Carpet" was released after his band's (The Essex Green) failed appearance on PSR's Monkees tribute (although the Essex Green would later surface on 2002's pop extravaganza "Dreaming Up The Perfect Pop"). One of Planting Seeds' top selling LP's of 2001, the CD received rave reviews from folks around the globe. In support of this LP, Michael did various live dates with fellow labelmates Jumprope along with a date with Astropop 3 in Norfolk, VA.


Splendid / Summer 2001

This is a very accomplished solo project from Michael Barrett, a busy young guy who's been drummer-songwriter-singer for Guppyboy, the Essex Green and the Sixth Great Lake, as well as a touring bassist for Ladybug Transistor. Against the rest of the Elephant 6 Collective, his outfits have been among their least hyped, but they are fabulously unpretentious, fun and worth checking out -- especially if you're a fan of the Kinks' Village Green phase. With Couches and Carpet, Barrett has made an epic Donovan throwback that works, like Donovan's music, as a counterpoint to Bob Dylan, Lou Reed and other poets of the street. Over eighteen songs, two bonus tracks and more than sixty minutes, Barrett's individually modest strengths gel into some of the most consistently pleasing folk pop I've heard. The melodies are sharp, the music playful and the vocals as soothing as a Monkees TV marathon on a sick day. It's as if Barrett is trying to make listeners happy or get them to feel better -- even when he's just doting upon allusions to songs gone by ("Spanish boots of leather lying in the hall") and to the definitively mundane ("I step on someone's foot/And they say Ouch"). Like Donovan, he's eager both to reference Dylan (Bob, not Jakob) and to separate himself from Dylan. His sometimes poetic lyrics are beautiful, but in a "serviceable" manner. It's hard to explain, but individual lyric lines are beautiful ("I'm somewhat sad about staying home"; "Don't forget about me"; "Your dress was fiery red") in the context of their songs, and seemingly commonplace outside of them. It's Barrett's modesty and his matter-of-fact truths that power them, as well as his very sincere vocals. He interprets his lyrics as Billie Holiday approached her material, which ultimately means that some material ("Do you know how many times you fucked your head up? /Just a couple, a couple of million") succeeds on good intentions alone. For fans of the more psychedelic side of the E6 Collective, the pleasures are less bountiful. You'll find them in numbers like "Queen Cherry Red" (which incorporates a chase scene music reminiscent of a gripping Get Smart moment) and "Four Nicks Up" (which also pays homage to the "Wrapping"-era Lou Reed, if you can imagine). Barrett's heart is more deeply contained in the folk pop; his gentle earnestness helps familiar-sounding tracks like "Upstairs in My Room" and "Roll on Home" to remain fresh and fun. The latter closes the documented portion of the record, injecting innocence into its blend of "Willin" and "Can't Find My Way Home", while the "Room" song does everything that "In My Room" and other of its classic precedents achieved: beautiful yearning guitar licks, tender vocals and small, simple sentences joined at the hip of nostalgia and melancholia. The pronouncements made throughout Couches and Carpet are never that deep ("There's a band in town at the Mercury Lounge/And they're gonna need a place to stay"), but pop doesn't demand profundities. All it needs is honesty -- and that's what we get throughout this pure and simple pleasure. -- Theodore Defosse

Modular (Brazil) #7 / October 2001

After three years of recordings, the talented and multi-instrumentalist Michael Barret debuts in a solo career with Couches And Carpets, sounding less psychedelic than Essex Green and Sixth Great Lake and without the sophistication of Ladybug Transistor (bands which also performs). Barret invests in the British folk and mainly in simplicity. Couches And Carpets are eighteen pop tunes, ingenuous however honest where "Yesterday And Today", "Chill Out", "The Beach Song" and "Marlborough Farms" (Ladybug Transistor's home, where part of the album was recorded) stands out. Everybody should spend sixty minutes of the day to listen to Couches And Carpets! - Fábio Casaca

All Music Guide / 2001

The debut solo effort by Michael Barrett was released in March 2001 on Planting Seeds Records. Entitled Couches and Carpet, the CD offered Barrett with an opportunity to record and release songs he'd written as a member of Guppyboy, the Essex Green, and the Sixth Great Lake. The songs are reminiscent of '60s psychedelic pop, folk, and country (with an overriding pop tempo). While Barrett's bands are members of the seminal Elephant 6 recording collective (including Apples in Stereo and Neutral Milk Hotel), his solo work has a serene and mellow feel. This shouldn't surprise listeners, as his band work is calmer and more laid-back when compared to his Elephant 6 contemporaries. The disc starts with the soothing "The Farm," moving on to the toe-tapping effects of "Yesterday and Today," and leading to the melancholy strains of "The Beach Song." On a calm, reflective CD such as this, it's hard to say which point is the pinnacle. On "Four Nicks Up," Barrett raps over minimal instrumentation and static. The crescendo might be reached at the end, with "Roll on Home" serving adequately as the album-closer, with themes of endings being repeated throughout. This 18-song effort was recorded in studios around Brooklyn and pieced together during a three-year period. Piano, guitar, and synthesizer combine to create an almost-orchestral sound on many songs, making it all the more surprising that this is the work of one man, with the occasional assistance of backup vocalists. - Stephen Cramer

Devil In The Woods / Issue 3.3 January 2002

Couches And Carpet is missing some of the instant charm that Michael Barrett's other projects, The Ladybug Transistor and The Essex Green, deliver so well. However, that doesn't mean that his pared-down brand of pastoral pop won't gradually win you over. Little quirks, such as his quaint, narrative lyrics and a surprising integration of organic electronic elements, make this record something a little more special that just a soft folk-pop solo album. - Lena Singer