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CD of The Week

Week of 5/21/18

    Courtney Barnett - Tell Me How You Really Feel (Mom + Pop)

    Almost five years out from the release of her double EP, Courtney Barnett has truly made a name for herself. As a solo artist, and as a duo with equally impressive Kurt Vile, Barnett's steadfast presence as a purveyor of contemplative indie rock has greatly increased her fan base. That audience is sure to find more to love on her latest album Tell Me How You Really Feel. Stretching her lyrical prowess and catchy melodies across a new analytical depth in her songwriting, Barnett shines on this collection as she delivers these heartfelt songs with more brutal honesty than ever before.

    As an album, Tell Me How You Really Feel is a bit of a slow burn, with its power becoming evident over the course of several listens. The gradual and gentle build of the opening track, "Hopefulessness," acts as the perfect introduction to Barnett's intentional use of arrangements with this collection of songs. While the album maintains a generally mellow atmosphere, it also hits the crass and bold end of the spectrum with "I'm Not Your Mother, I'm Not Your Bitch" and contrasts that with glowing "Sunday Roast." Traversing across different tones and finding new grooves on songs like "Help Your Self" gives the album the diversity it needs within the same instrumentation and style that you expect from Barnett.

    Another switch on this album from the past was Barnett's lyrical shift from imaginative, detailed stories to a proverb-filled reaction to her daily life. "Nameless, Faceless" is a real barb into the gut of the men and their respective assumed place in society versus the experience of a woman. Its rocketing guitars pack as much of a punch as the chorus of "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." Vulnerability is also an album theme that pokes through on several tracks. Barnett digs into the grit of feeling the pressure and her ability to process it on "Need A Little Time," creating the perfect fervent release of said pressure while comparing it to shaving your head. Finding an ideal balance of honest lyricism and vulnerability in harmony with searing guitar riffs, Barnett delivers a letter of equal frustration and caution to someone she attempts to maintain a relationship with on "Charity." The images conjured from these tracks are grounded in a soured reality that pervades the whole set of new songs.

    Growing in fame and grinding in an almost constant state of touring has left Barnett with a new but somehow equally relatable set of experiences and emotions that she has adeptly set to song on Tell Me How You Really Feel. While this album lacks some of the instant familiarity and screamability of her previous material, it makes up for it with polish, confidence, and complexity.

    Courtney Barnett returns to Philadelphia at The Fillmore on October 23rd.

    **Donate $20 or more to Y-Not Radio to receive a copy of Tell Me How You Really Feel on CD. Click here for details.

    Review by Shana Hartzel

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