The Lesser Column

Courtney Barnett knocks it out of the park with ‘Tell Me How You Really Feel’

Courtney Barnett may be known to us for quite some time, but never has she made us feel quite so much.



All the cool kids will be able to tell you how they knew Courtney Barnett way back when, before she got famous on Triple J, before the hits from Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit got on high rotation, then to America, and onto SNL and Obama’s summer playlist.

Not me, though. I just randomly heard Elevator Operator once, put it on my end of year Christmas card CD, and thought it was cool how she sang about the 96 tram line. That’s near my house.

My ear is many things, but “close to the ground” is not one of them.

She’s through the roof now, even though she’s still recording her stuff in a shitty building in Northcote (I looked it up and drove past it the other day – from the outside it looks like a former auto mechanic’s that now manufactures meth) – a Melbourne girl at heart who sings with her accent, doesn’t hide her roots, and it seems angered up a little on her sophomore effort, Tell Me How You Really Feel.

Barnett’s observations remain as pointed as they were on her debut: these canny observations, sarcastic overtures and some post-punk smoke bombs thrown in for good mix; we have within this sensational second outing a singer-songwriter who chooses her lyrical inspirations from afar afield as Nirvana, Nelson Mandela and Margaret Atwood. Internet trolls get their due, although precious few of them will probably be tuning in to get the message.

Album opener Hopefulessness gets things off to a slow burn – and in the absence of real words to use here, let’s just say that this sounds exactly like a small live gig in a Melbourne bar should sound. It feels like a Melbourne song. Anyhow. City Looks Pretty takes a more up-tempo swing to it, whereas I’m Not Your Mother, I’m Not Your Bitch has everything you need to know about it right there in the title. In a tilt to her influences, Kim Deal (Pixies, Breeders) chimes in with backing vocals on two tracks, signifying something of an heir apparent feel to where this album sits, and where Barnett is heading.

Sorry I’m late to the party, but I’m glad I got here eventually. It’s great, this record. It bodes well for the future, not only for her but her sound, my ears and the good of the world in general.


The Lesser Column

The Lesser Column covers a broad spectrum of content. With a focus on film, we also publish reviews of music, books, TV shows, live theatre and stand-up comedy, as well as occasional pieces of social and cultural commentary. Our reviews don’t give star ratings or ‘thumbs up/down’, and come from a more personal perspective – why what’s on display affected us in the way it did; why it’s good or otherwise, how it fits in a broader cultural context. Here is where you come for informed opinion and analysis. People are often very selective about how and where they find themselves entertained, so we’re offering reasons why you should see, read, hear, and experience something beyond simply what it’s about.

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