Since Sometimes I Sit and Think and Sometimes I Just Sit, Courtney Barnett has solidified herself as one of the greatest Australian indie rock artists to date. This week, she delivered once more with Tell Me How You Really Feel. Opposing her first album outlining her own life, Barnett takes a new direction. Her second LP outlines the general human experience through observation of those around her. As a result, Tell Me How You Really Feel is a beautiful recount of the human condition.
A droning bassline introduces the album with a smoother than usual feel with ‘Hopefulessness’. Barnett’s vocals have a hint of tenderness much different than her plainly spoken signature vocal style, luring the listener in. With lines like “take your broken heart/Turn it into art” and “You know what they say/No one’s taught to hate/We learn it somewhere along with the way”, the song introduces the album on an emotional leg, before screeching guitars lead the song into a mass, distorted ending, keeping listeners guessing as to where the album will go next.
‘City Looks Pretty’ follows, featuring the memorable, anthemic chorus lyric “Sometimes I get sad/It’s not all that bad”, Barnett beckons listeners back into her original, conversational and completely relatable vocal tone. With lyrics reinforcing the idea that it’s okay to have a bad day, she then also demonstrates her general versatility, changing tone midway through to a more melancholic, slower sound. She then returns to her familiar simple rock groove with ‘Charity’. Accompanied by a steady beat, Barnett returns to her roots.
‘Need A Little Time’ is possibly one of Barnett’s most relatable tracks to date. With lyrics which are somewhat self-deprecating yet still validating the track stresses the importance of taking time for yourself to heal. She introduces some of her most alluring lyrics “Shave your head to see how it feels/emotionally it’s not that different/but to the hand it’s beautiful”.
A descending instrumental line introduces another powerful track ‘Nameless, Faceless’. Circulating around the culture of the keyboard warrior, Barnett introduces a new, more political side, with reference to Margaret Atwood, the chorus states “I want to walk through the park in the dark/Men are scared that women will laugh at them/I want to walk through the park in the dark/Women are scared that men will kill them”.
Barnett intercepts the album with a much heavier and much shorter transitional track, “I’m Not Your Mother, I’m Not Your Bitch”. Here Barnett vents the frustration of dealing with the emotional weight of everyone around her, expressing that she can “…only put up with so much shit”. She expresses the same notion in “Help Yourself”, reminding us that life’s only as hard as we make it, saying “darkness depends on where you’re standing”. ‘Walking On Eggshells” follows, reminding us the importance of not bottling up emotions and learning to confidently express how we feel.
Tell Me How You Really Feel ends with arguably Barnett’s most wholesome song to date, ‘Sunday Roast’. “Don’t come with your arms swinging/Throw them around me/Some kind of sweet relief/I hope you never leave” she begins. Accompanied by simple chorus lyrics, “I know you’re doing your best/I think you’re doing just fine”, Barnett’s overall tone allows her to come across like a friend. She’s here to remind us to “keep on keepin’ on”.
Words by Emily Hollitt