Courtney Barnett – Tell Me How You Really Feel

“You know it’s okay to have a bad day,” Courtney Barnett reminds us on “Hopefulessness,” the opening track of her new album, Tell Me How You Really Feel. Though ripe with the lean prose and bulky sounds typical of Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit, this time around Barnett has parted with the flippant detachment and replaced it with a refreshing, vulnerable meditation on the impossibility of articulating how we feel.

The first half of the album dwells in a familiar state of melancholy. Barnett’s short-winded hooks of distress are masked by the forced smile of a power-pop exterior. She follows lines of personal frustration with self-help quips one might find scrawled on dirty bathroom mirrors or discarded Post-it Notes. On “City Looks Pretty,” as if to convince herself, she reckons, “it’s not all that bad,” and offers dryly, “one day, maybe never/ I’ll come around.”

The narrative stalls midway with the femme-punk anthem “I’m Not Your Mother, I’m Not Your Bitch” which lacks the specified malaise fueling the rest of the album, but the purge of raw angst opens the back half up to growth and reflection.

Barnett spends the latter half of the album bridging the universal gap between self-validation and public acceptance. She guides a first-person narrative through bouts of despair too self-consuming to project anything outward. In the aptly-titled “Crippling Self-Doubt and a General Lack of Confidence,” Barnett offers “I don’t know…I don’t know anything.” It’s a welcome sentiment from an artist unaffected by the modern deification of celebrity in a year full of social and political extremism.

Barnett finishes the album on a high note with “Sunday Roast,” a peer gathering offering nothing in the way of closure but everything in support. She admits, “I got a lot on my mind/ But I don’t know how to say it/ I know you’re doing your best/ I think you’re doing just fine.” The album closes with the adage, “Keep on keeping on, you know you’re not alone.” ‘Cause the pain doesn’t go away, but maybe it doesn’t hurt as much when you share it.

Courtney Barnett
Tell Me How You Really Feel
[Mom + Pop]