So far, my reaction to this new Courtney Barnett record has been “this is really good, but not that exciting”. Which is a pretty shitty reaction, considering anything really good should be appreciated at face value for its really good-ness. But, maybe chock it up to the fact that Barnett released an unsurprisingly solid collaboration with Kurt Vile last year, and therefore it feels like it hasn’t been that long since we’ve heard from her, despite the fact that it’s been three years since her tremendous 2015 solo debut.
Which does beg the question – in our current music climate of so many artists putting out new releases, easily available on streaming each week – does being prolific help or hurt your cultural relevance? Just looking at music releases from the past month or so, you can look at an artist like Parquet Courts, who just released another solid, hard-to-categorize album. Though one has to wonder if there’d be more anticipation for a Parquet Courts release if they just waited a few years between their numerous albums. I feel like it has helped an artist like Janelle Monáe, whose 2018 album was her first in five years, and thus feels like she went through a kind of vital, exhilarating transformation in the five years leading up to Dirty Computer.
Even though it’s only (technically) been a year since Courtney Barnett released an album, I would say it sounds like she’s also gone through a fair amount since her debut Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit. Clearly, songs on Tell Me How You Really Feel like “Nameless, Faceless” are tinged with reverberations of the #MeToo movement, but are addressed with Barnett’s signature droll astuteness. Meanwhile, a song like “Need a Little Time” sees Barnett reeling a bit from the exhaustion and expectations of being an indie rock superstar in an age when there are only so many of those.
Ultimately, I would not say there’s an overarching narrative to this album, really, but I think that’s perfectly fine. Courtney Barnett is such a strong songwriter, with equal talent for well placed lyrical nuggets as well as hummable hooks, that it’s always a joy to listen to whatever anxiety seems to be rattling around in her head. Which, getting back to where I started this review, doesn’t make for the most flashy album in a sea of weekly music releases. But nonetheless, it continues to make Courtney Barnett an artist worth hanging out with, if only through her excellent songs.
Favorite Tracks: “Nameless, Faceless”, “Crippling Self Doubt And A General Lack of Self Confidence”, “Sunday Roast”