by Josh McCann
“I don’t know, I don’t know anything,” Courtney Barnett sings on the catchy upbeat track “Crippling Self Doubt and a General Lack of Self Confidence.” The title is a very Courtney Barnett title, and the lyric is a very non-Courtney Barnett lyric, who took the alt rock community by storm with her 2015 debut breakthrough Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit. But the simple chorus line shows how Barnett is honing her craft, with the less is more technique. By the end, you can just see the crowds jumping up and down to the chorus.
On Tell Me How You Really Feel, Barnett uses her guitar, and more guitar, to new levels. The driving rhythm of “City Looks Pretty” sets the tone for the record, which also features a beautiful breakdown of atmospheric guitars and a melancholy solo. The volume keeps ascending with “Nameless Faceless,” where Barnett rips it loose over punchy guitar riffs in pure signature form.
But the record isn’t all rocked out ragers, as the Australian singer/songwriter brings it down to add dynamics to the ride. On “Need a Little Time,” Barnett sings, “I don’t know a lot about you/ but you seem to know a lot about me,” over a chill groove with a sweet B3 organ and a falsetto that rings bittersweet summer. The track is a clear indicator of how Barnett is growing as an artist. She can be loud. She can be quiet. And both ends of the spectrum sound awesome!
The album opens with “Hopefulessness,” as Barnett sings, “Take your broken heart/ Turn it into art,” a line that is an ode to Carrie Fisher. The closer “Sunday Roast” feels like a moonlit drive, complete with grunge guitar echo while Barnett brings it home with an optimistic message, singing, “Keep on keeping on/You know you’re not alone.”
It’s ultimately the decibel raising anthems that define this record. On “I’m not your mother, I’m not your bitch,” Barnett howls over wild guitars and chaotic drums for an epic 190 seconds of rock fury. That’s how it’s done! There are no signs of a sophomore slump here. Barnett pushes her sound in both directions for the record, showcasing an artist that is just getting started both lyrically and sonically.