She’s got a sense of humour that’s often delivered in deadpan prose washed with thorny guitars. Tell Me How You Really Feel throws us back into the mind of Barnett – it’s tangled and messy but the singer knows it.
“You’ve got a lot on your mind,” says Barnett on ‘Help Your Self’. The singer is gently comforting someone but this could be a reflection of how the singer really feels. She’s a scatterbrained musician that needs to get her words out. “Say what you want to say,” Barnett pleads on ‘Walkin’ On Eggshells’. Fair point, we could all take Barnett’s advice and be a little more transparent.
A lonely Barnett zooms out on ‘City Looks Pretty’. She gazes at the metropolis in front of her, feeling like a stranger among friends, “The city takes pity on your injured soul.” On ‘Nameless, Faceless’, Barnett examines the dangerous dichotomy between men and women in the age of #MeToo. She cites the Margaret Atwood quote: “Men are scared that women will laugh at them…Women are scared that men will kill them.” Barnett frantically finds her way home with the “keys between” her fingers. All she ever wants to do is walk through the park alone at night. But Barnett can spit venom. She screams “I’m not your mother. I’m not your bitch,” on the track of the same name.
A healthy dose of ‘90s grunge wraps around her songs. Tracks like ‘Charity’, ‘Sunday Roast’, and the menacing opener ‘Hopelessness’ are carried with rising guitar leads and padded drums. Kim (Pixies) and Kelly Deal (The Breeders) provide some backup vocals on a couple of songs. ‘Need A Little Time’ is beautifully crafted that features a silky organ lead.
Tell Me How You Really Feel is another album that expands our understanding of Courtney Barnett. Behind the humour, the wit, and the cheekiness is an artist attempting to make sense of the world around her. This album doesn’t have all the answers, but who really does?