May 14, 2018 Courtney Barnett – Tell Me How You Really Feel (Album Review)
The highs of a critically-acclaimed debut album are laden with the poison of fame: a homegrown cocktail whose sweet satisfaction grows bitter with drugs, sex, materialism and unintended self-destruction. An invisible pressure begins to hover over what was once so great, demanding a second round of that same debut album magic. Drawing a distinct line between fame and lifelong passion, Courtney Barnett reveals an unspoken journey with sophomore release, Tell Me How You Really Feel, via Mom+Pop/Marathon Artists/Milk! Records on Friday, May 18, 2018.
The Australian native discovered a warm place in the music industry for her quirky style of Alt-Rock, hooking listeners with down-to-earth lyrics (literally, some songs refer to insects) and mundane wonders so relatable they couldn’t help but be loved. Releasing her first full-length in 2015, Sometimes I Sit and Think and Sometimes I Just Sit made an everyday name out of Courtney Barnett. Putting a brief pause on new solo material, Barnett released the collaborative album Lotta Sea Lice with Kurt Vile in 2017. The duo allowed the world a peek into a basement jam session between the best of friends and heralded instant demand for more Barnett in all shapes and forms. Tell Me How You Really Feel is a personal glimpse of the worldly pressure to generate music without craft and social issues plaguing current times.
A melancholy guitar riff moors the sincerity of first track “Hopefulessness.” Little more than spoken-word vocals edge their way into the track with an arresting first lyric: “You know what they say/no one’s born to hate/we learn it somewhere/along the way.” The song gradually builds with the addition of drums, more guitar and a white-noise background of distortion. Barnett’s level vocals are the seamless half of a lyrically dark whole, presenting the album with a passionate heart displayed proudly on her sleeve.
The peppy carousel of “City Looks Pretty” winds a permanent hum into listeners’ heads, reminiscent of a grown-up version of 2014’s The Double EP: A Sea of Split Peas. Echoing the same distortive shreds as “Hopefulessness,” the track mellows into a slow-dance ending of Barnett making peace with the city from where she stands.
Releasing the zine-art music video alongside “Nameless, Faceless,” Barnett tackles gender inequality with cats, outer space, snazzy patterns and pictures of shaking fists. The upbeat track and creative visual video refuse to go around the moral of the story: “I wanna walk through the park in the dark/women are scared that men will kill them/I hold my keys between my fingers.” Offering up hugs and condolences, Barnett cruises along another superb hook and ear-worm of a song.
Tell Me How You Really Feel soars through the classic Barnett canvas of peculiar thoughts and observations, while valiantly standing up for issues plaguing current times. Her customary awkward demeanor has shed the fear of creating another acclaimed album and in doing so, replaces it with just that: an intimate conversation between fan and musician, striving to smooth the wrinkles in a tapestry pleated with deep opinions. Another album surely to be acclaimed, with notable tracks “Charity,” “Help Your Self” and “Sunday Roast” not to be missed. Therefore, CrypticRock gives this album 4 out of 5 stars.
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