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A review of Courtney Barnett’s “Tell Me How You Really Feel”

Jul. 5, 2018
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Courtney Barnett is an Australian singer/songwriter who, with her latest work, combined modern alternative rock and her own unique, rambling style of writing. The album, Tell Me How You Really Feel, is pretty much exactly what its title infers. Expressing your true and raw emotions is hard to do, but this album pushes the listener to do exactly that. Barnett released her first EP in 2014, and her writing has become only more vulnerable since. With tracks like “Nameless, Faceless” and “Crippling Self-Doubt and a General Lack of Confidence,” “Tell Me How You Really Feel” explores cutting-edge and straightforward topics that many are too afraid to talk about.

Barnett didn’t hold back in the first track of the album, “Hopefulessness.” The title combines the words “hopeful” and “hopeless,” as well as “hopefulness” and “hopelessness.” Confusing, right? The song opens directly with “No one’s born to hate / We learn it along the way” followed by “Take your broken heart / Turn it into art.” The song mashes many ideas together, from hate and love to the fact that your emotions are completely valid.

The second track, titled “City Looks Pretty,” describes the strange and sometimes harsh culture of a big city, but the “city” is most likely a synecdoche to describe the world as a whole. This track has a pretty pessimistic tone, claiming that “everyone’s soaked in animosity.” Although this may sound quite harsh, it can be pretty easy to believe at times when it feels like the whole world is against you.

The fourth track, “Need a Little Time,” is about as self-explanatory as the title of the album. Barnett makes some apologies and promises, but ultimately decides that she needs a little time alone. It’s normal for everyone to need some time to be alone and figure themselves out. (Make sure to watch the music video for this one.) In track six, the tone switches to a much more powerful demeanor. Boldly titled “I’m Not Your Mother, I’m Not Your Bitch,” this song is aggressive, assertive, and pretty much the anthem for the independent woman.

The seventh track has a catchy beat and a fun chord progression, which is unexpected for a song named “Crippling Self-Doubt and a General Lack of Confidence.” Barnett’s previously mentioned rambling style of writing clearly is reflected in this title. This song expresses confusion and simply not knowing what to do, how to act, or how the other person is feeling. This is pretty obviously shown in how the line “I don’t know, I don’t know anything” is repeated about 16 times in the three-minute song.

The tenth and final track, entitled “Sunday Roast,” is the perfect closure, a reassurance that everything is going to be okay. Barnett says things like “I think you’re doing just fine” and “Keep on keeping on” which puts a nice bow on the album’s whirlwind of emotions.

I think that Tell Me How You Really Feel is the perfect combination of confusing emotions, catchy instrumentals, and poetic lyrics that we all needed. If you love Courtney as much as I do, make sure to listen to her seemingly endless supply of EP’s, and be prepared to fall deeper in love.

This set was published under Adolescent's collaboration with Pure Nowhere. You can check them out here.