Courtney Barnett has been on an exciting and steady rise to fame since her 2015 debut, Sometimes I Sit and Think and Sometimes I Just Sit. A Grammy nomination and a collaboration with Kurt Vile later, Barnett has released her highly anticipated sophomore LP.
Barnett’s debut contained largely observational lyrics; she often took the role of a spectator relaying anecdotes to her audience rather than being an active participant in what was happening around her. Tell Me How You Really Feel, by contrast, tends to gravitate more toward introspection.
The album’s second track, “City Looks Pretty”, is plentiful with both versions of Courtney Barnett lyrics. On the verses she observes that “Friends treat you like a stranger/And strangers treat you like their best friend.” The first half of the song plays with the pop rock style that rose her to indie stardom. After a breakdown, the dissonant outro lasts the remainder of the track. Barnett sings that “I’ll be what you want when you want it/But I’ll never be what you need” before an undeniably Barnett-esque solo carries the song to its conclusion.
“Nameless, Faceless” was the album’s first single. Barnett paraphrases author Margaret Atwood through a distorted filter on the chorus, singing “I wanna walk through the park in the dark/Men are scared that women will laugh at them/ I wanna walk through the park in the dark/Women are scared that men will kill them”. In the post-chorus she adds “I hold my keys/Between my fingers”, alluding to a makeshift Wolverine style of self defense.
“Crippling Self Doubt and a General Lack of Self-Confidence” is the title that pops off the tracklist, either for its length or its transparency. The song itself is decidedly more upbeat than its title might suggest. It’s also the song that bears the album’s title in its lyrics. “Tell me how you really feel” is shouted softly through a filter before Barnett reaches the chorus in which she repeats “I don’t know, I don’t know anything”.
Barnett achieved a sophomore album that stacks up comparably to her critically acclaimed debut album. She’s reiterated parts of her sound and expanded others while continuing her case for one of music’s great current songwriters.