Australian songwriter and guitarist, Ali Barter’s sophomore release ‘Hello, I’m Doing My Best’ is an exercise in emotionally nuanced lyricism and an unadorned production. Channelling an easy, candid 2000s pop-rock vibe, the album is an endearing yet frank collection that aims for genuine relatability while still managing to not take itself too seriously.
Opening with the intimate track ‘Lester’, Ali is in her most vulnerable avatar as she takes listeners through the ups and downs of her complicated relationship with her late father ; offering an olive branch as she quietly works through issues of the past.
Now happily married and seven-years sober, Ali’s second release on the whole is far removed from the “angry-girl/teen angst music” that dominated her 2017 debut ‘A Suitable Girl’, but she’s not above delving into introspective, and no-BS confessionals – the first of which is the single ‘Ur A Piece Of Shit’. A jarringly gleeful creation, ‘Ur A Piece Of Shit’- one of the album’s early highlights - embraces the various screw-ups that litter the teenage experience; from eating disorders and self-harm to toxic love.
Ali reminisces about bad, self-destructive decisions continue on tracks such as ‘Cocktail Bar’ - which samples the clubbing nightmare of ending up in “all kinds of situations”- while pop-punk track ‘History Of Boys’ is a journey through destructive early-twenties vices onto the other side – the side Ali currently stands on - where acceptance of oneself awaits.
If ‘A Suitable Girl’ was an attempt at universal feminine relatability by focusing on the past mistakes, ‘Hello, I’m Doing My Best’ goes beyond by first talking about issues before focusing on growth, ambition and becoming a better person.
The perfect example of a track – and a definite highlight within the 11-track production - that reaches the pinnacle of this relatability is the mid-tempo slow burner ‘January’ ; which discusses the made-to-fail resolutions to become a better person as the dawn of a brand-new year begins.
There’s a typical, no-holds-barred dejected vibe to ‘January’ – of once again failing even if it’s just a resolution to work out more – but Ali’s brand of music is unique and impressive for it’s ability to toe the line of exasperation while keeping up a playful soundscape; the rhythmic opening of ‘Big Ones’ and deceptively explosive tones of break-up track ‘Are You Happy Now?’ being great examples.
But it’s not all bleak messages masked in up-beat sonics, as tracks like ‘Backseat’ makes a well-executed attempt at tongue-in-cheek endearment as a voicemail from Ali is thrown into the mix as she envisions her now-husband as her crush. And penultimate track ‘This Girl’ tones down the playfulness in the best of ways as it lulls listeners as the end of the record approaches.
Closing out ‘I Won’t Lie’ is a perfectly fine track – where Ali bares her soul telling you the truth of her being, of who she is as a person, about being a person who will overshare and stick her nose into matters that don’t concern her. The soft instrumentals, vocals and most importantly the casual honesty, carry you through to the end as it builds slowly to reach a very acceptable and pleasant final note.
An album that really shines for its openness, and relative high-energy, the tail end is unfortunately littered with some skippable dips in tone and music. Tracks like ‘Magoo’ are particularly forgettable- not because it’s bad music, but because it’s buried under better music. Even the perfectly enjoyable ‘I Won’t Lie’ seems misplaced, as it somehow lacks the ‘final hurrah’ quality required for it to seem like a high-power, memorable end.
As a whole, the album begins strong but unfortunately strays a little towards the end. Overall, Ali Barter’s follow-up to ‘A Suitable Girl’, is more than honest, more than genuine and more than just good music. However, it also has more than a fair share of missed marks. But Ali gave a disclaimer right in the title; so knowing she’s doing her best and appreciating her clear talent and effort is all that’s needed.
Words: Malvika Padin
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