Published May 16, 2018Gliding effortlessly over the sophomore slump with Tell Me How You Really Feel, Courtney Barnett's (solo) followup to Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit finds an artist who has grown more introspective as a writer, more outspoken as a singer and more imaginative (and a lot louder) as a guitarist.
Clever turns of phrase and quirky observations still permeate Barnett's writing, and there are still jangly, toe-tapping jams like "Need a Little Time" and "City Looks Pretty," but there are also darker forces at work. Tell Me How You Really Feel starts on a bleakly pessimistic note with "Hopelessnessless" — a made-up term that nails the ennui of existence in 2018. Later, long-repressed anger bursts out on "Nameless, Faceless" (a sharp response to injustices women regularly face), and especially on "I'm Not Your Mother, I'm Not Your Bitch" (which opens with screeching feedback and builds to a visceral cry of: "I try to be patient, but I can only put up with so much shit").
"Crippling Self-Doubt and a General Lack of Confidence" hears Barnett answering the album's titular question with a self-effacing, "I don't know anything," but the clouds start to clear a bit by "Help Your Self," when the singer-songwriter admits: "Darkness depends on where you're standing."
According to Barnett, the record is specifically sequenced to move away from the darker, foreboding feel as it progresses. As such, "Walkin on Eggshells" hears her confronting conflict and opening lines of communication, realizing that tiptoeing around the issues at hand won't solve them. By closer "Sunday Roast," a melancholic nostalgia washes over the listener — leaving them with the sense that maybe hope really can survive despair. (Mom + Pop)