Observers would be aware that over the course of just a few years Courtney Barnett has become internationally renowned for her distinctive and acclaimed musical lexicon. Her seemingly effortless ability to flip an intensely private sentiment on its head and make it sound universal and relatable won her fans around the world. Her debut album, “Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit” saw her top year-end lists and sell out shows to rabid audiences on five continents. She played the most iconic and revered festival stages, won the Australian Music Prize, J Award for Album Of the Year, APRA’s Songwriter Of the Year and four ARIAs. The album was even nominated for a Grammy and a BRIT Award.
So… how do you follow that up?
“In Tell Me How You Really Feel” Barnett has revealed an exhilarating and unexpected shift. From its title (A question? An order?) to the unsettling cover image – a blood-red tinted self-portrait in uncomfortably tight close up – Barnett sets a new tone. There’s a new-found directness with this record, a muscularity to the instrumentation, a tenderness in her voice and a boldness to the lyrics which speaks to Barnett entering a remarkable new phase of her musical evolution. She’s saying more, with less. Whereas once she examined the world through the prism of self-analysis, Tell Me How You Really Feel shifts that focus to those she interacts with – the good ones, the bad ones, the loved ones. Those she knows intimately and those who are strangers.
The first single ‘Nameless, Faceless’ is an infectious punk rock anthem simmering with indignation and sarcasm as it examines the phenomenon of anonymous internet trolls. Through song, Barnett is using the medium she knows best to return fire.
Every lyric is memorable as Barnett quotes one of the more creative burns she’s received in a comments section, “I could eat a bowl of alphabet soup and spit out better words than you” It would be pure comedy if it didn’t invariably and insidiously cross over into anxiety about ones safety in the real world… illustrated perfectly by the chorus which borrows from a famous Margaret Atwood quote “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 / I hold my keys between my fingers”.