Courtney Barnett, known for her Aussie twanged witty indie rock, has released a new album, Tell Me How You Really Feel. This album has two main points in my eyes; her developed warm sound, and her attempt to get a little political.
Based on one of her singles from this album, “Nameless and Faceless,” I had already got a sense that she had some feminist juices brewing for this album. Within this song she repeatedly quoted Margaret Atwood, “Men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid that men will kill them.” Along with describing how sad the man who said she couldn’t write, is. That she wishes someone would hug him but also that he needs to realize he is not the victim as women are holding keys between their fingers at night and hence her usage of the Atwood quote.
In this era of things being very hyper-political and in your face, I am very critical of political artist. If you’re going to do it, go in all the way. The way Barnett has explored these themes of depression and anti-misogyny in this album feel very Joan Baez-esk. Not in the sense that her sound is like Baez, but her attempt to explore these themes feel forced. Baez is a face of anti-war songs in the 60’s but she, like Barnett, never dug in deep past surface level messages. As if she is singing about these topics because everyone is expecting her to do so.
The album opened with “Hopefulessness,” with an eerie yet catchy guitar riff opening with her soft drawn out vocals really driving every word of, “You know what they say, no one is born to hate, we learn it somewhere along the way.”
“The City Looks Pretty” is the second track on this album and it’s just a classic Barnett sound. It starts off catchy, expected, but puttogether if anything. Then about ¾’s in the tempo slows and a mood shift is taken in just the slightest amount. It doesn’t sound like she put two songs into one or anything, but it’s enough of a shift to re-engage the listener, like ‘hey Im not done, don’t zone out.’
She then gives her bit on love falling apart in “Charity” and some depression in “Crippling Self Doubt and a General Lack of Self Confidence.” She then takes an interesting take of a harsher, wanna-be-punk-esk-ish sound in “I’m not your mother, I’m not your bitch.” These songs are where I would say the “Baez-effect,” lives in the most.
Toward the end of the album, there is a turn where she starts to feel herself again in “Walkin’ On Eggshells.” Her vocals in this whole album are warm and at the forefront. This song is a good example of how she sounds personable, with you, and accompanied by a wonderful piano that gives me classic 70’s, modern Carole King.
A sweet classic end with “Sunday Brunch” is the Barnett we know; soft, lyrically done well, not as flat as some of the other songs. She rounded out the album very well in a direction that is more her. She even gives in to the fact that she acknowledges her “Baez-effect” within her own songs: “I have a lot on my mind I just don’t know how to say it.”
Courtney Barnett will be playing at the Truman in Kansas City, MO on Wednesday, July 18th.