Album of the Week: Courtney Barnett

Tell Me How You Really Feel Out Today via Mom + Pop/Marathon Artists/Milk! Records

May 18, 2018
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In the now four years since her double EP A Sea of Split Peas announced Courtney Barnett as a force to be reckoned with in the indie singer/songwriter sphere, there has been little-to-no let up in the proficiency of this Australian 30-year-old.

Releasing her stunning debut album Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit a year later and then teaming up with kindred spirit Kurt Vile last year for a duet album of much more subdued, slacker rock "anthems," Barnett has spent hardly any time out of the limelight. Returning this week with her highly anticipated solo sophomore effort, she shows how these experiences have influenced her, and shaped the artist that she has now become.

The opening side to Tell Me How You Really Feel is about as optimistic and as positive as Barnett's unique brand of authentically quirky and naturalistic songwriting could ever be. Single "City Looks Pretty" provides the obvious high point here, but elsewhere, tracks like "Charity" and "Need a Little Time" follow this up, doing an equally impressive job.

Those looking for a return to the distorted, hard rocking edge that gave birth to Barnett's strongest single to date, 2015's "Pedestrian At Best," may be disappointed by this opening section. It certainly feels more mellow and less obviously robust, the kind of song that helps you to enjoy a few moments free of the existential crisis that she has so far soundtracked better than just about anyone.

The back half of the album, opening with the sludgy "I'm Not Your Mother, I'm Not Your Bitch" sees Barnett begin to give in to her more hard-nosed, angsty self. But this doesn't last all that long, and by the time the closing couplet of songs play out, the heartbeat is back to a resting pulse and all is okay with the world.

One of the album's biggest talking points in the lead up to it's release has been the track "Nameless, Faceless" that sees Barnett tackle the issue of online trolling that is so rife within our society today. Reacting to the online comments of a small minority who didn't like her first record, she fights back with lines like "must be lonely/being angry" and "I'm real sorry 'bout/whatever happened to you," taking the high road, when many would plump for a less-dignified approach.

Elsewhere on the track, she takes inspiration from the Margaret Atwood quote-"men are afraid that women will laugh at them/women are afraid that men will kill them"-to channel her own take on the differences between the genders, such a constant source of cultural creativity in recent months and years.

It's fair to say that this album won't be to everybody's taste. Doubtless, there will be some that are eager to cry "sell out" at Barnett now that she dared to push the boundaries on her own insular comfort zone. But, in looking at this album through that viewpoint, it actually becomes an incredibly brave release for her to put out. A follow-up album that isn't shouting from the mountain tops or swinging from the chandeliers, rather one that reassures and entertains its audience with a brand of storytelling so uniquely Barnett's that you can't help but fall in love with it.

Don't forget that Barnett is on the cover of our current print issue, the Spring 2018 issue. Pick up a copy now to read an in-depth interview with her about the new album. Or you can now read the cover story on our website here.

Also read our review of Tell Me How You Really Feel.

 

 

 

 

Courtney Barnett Tour Dates:

5/19 - New York, NY at Music Hall of Williamsburg (SOLD OUT) %
5/21 - Chicago, IL at Preston Bradley Hall at Tiffany Dome (SOLD OUT) ^^
5/25 - Belfast at BBC's Biggest Weekend 
5/29 - Leeds at O2 Academy +
5/30 - Brussels at Ancienne Belgique +
5/31 - Utrecht at Tivoli Vredenburg Ronda +
6/2 - Glasgow at Barrowlands +
6/3 - London at All Points East Festival 
6/4 - Manchester at Academy +
6/5 - Bristol at O2 Academy +
6/6 - London at Roundhouse +
6/9 - Paris at Bataclan +
6/10 - Luxembourg at Den Atelier +
6/11 - Berlin at Astra Kulturhaus +
6/13 - Cologne at Live Music Hall +
7/6 - Winnipeg, MB at Winnipeg Folk Festival
7/7 - Des Moines, IA at 80/35 Festival
7/9 - Toronto, ON at Danforth Music Hall ^
7/10 - Toronto, ON at Danforth Music Hall (SOLD OUT) ^
7/11 - Ottawa, ON at Ottawa Blues Festival 
7/12 - North Adams, MA at MASS MoCA ^
7/14 - Columbus, OH at Newport Music Hall ^
7/15 - Louisville, KY at Forecastle Festival 
7/17 - St. Louis, MO at The Pageant ^
7/18 - Kansas City, MO at Truman ^
7/20 - Chicago, IL at Pitchfork Music Festival
7/21 - Minneapolis, MN at Surly Brewing Festival Field ~#
7/22 - Edmonton, AB at Intersteller Rodeo
7/24 - Washington DC at The Anthem ^#
7/25 - Brooklyn, NY at Celebrate Brooklyn Prospect Park ^#
7/26 - Portland, ME at State Theatre #
7/28 - Newport, RI at Newport Folk Festival (SOLD OUT)
9/29 - Denver, CO at Ogden Theatre ++
10/2 - Phoenix, AZ at The Van Buren ++
10/3 - San Diego, CA at The Observatory North Park ++
10/5 - Los Angeles, CA at The Greek Theatre ++
10/8 - Seattle, WA at Paramount Theatre ++
10/10 - Vancouver, BC at Vogue Theatre ++
10/12 - Portland, OR at Crystal Ballroom ++
10/17 - Milwaukee, WI at Pabst Theater ++
10/21 - Boston, MA at House of Blues ++
10/23 - Philadelphia, PA at The Fillmore 
10/25 - Nashville, TN at Marathon Music Works 
10/27 - Austin, TX at Stubb's

& with Jay Som
** with Molly Burch
% with Palehound
^^ with LALA LALA
+ with Loose Tooth
^ with Vagabon
~ with Big Thief
# with Julien Baker
++ with Waxahatchee

www.courtneybarnett.com.au

 

Album of the Week Runner-ups (Also Released This Week):

Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks: Sparkle Hard (Matador)

 

Parquet Courts: Wide Awake! (Rough Trade)

 

Ryley Walker: Deafman Glance (Dead Oceans)

 

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