I feel like I know Ali Barter.
Don’t get me wrong, I know that that’s the lure of celebrity – the feeling that they’re so familiar and at the same time so far removed from the mundanity of every day life. But I recognised something about her; from the moment I first saw her performing live. She reminds me of my friends, girls I went to school with who seemed impossibly cool from a distance but turned out to be down to earth and witty and as impatient for the demise of patriarchy as my adolescent (and adult) self. That sense of kinship is what drew me to her in the first place, confused as to why I felt so attached to the artist before me, curious to find out more . I’ll admit, I wasn’t an early adopter, partially due to my limited access to radio but mostly due to my previous disdain for female-led music until embarrassingly recently. The first Ali Barter song I came across was Girlie Bits when it was freshly released in 2016. On my first listen I grinned to myself and bopped along, by the second listen I was Googling the lyrics and I’ve never looked back since.
A Suitable Girl is Ali Barter’s first full length album after what feels like a lifetime of EPs, singles and features. To existing fans, many of the songs on this 11 track, 39 minute journey are familiar but hearing them in recorded form one after another they sound fresh, and bring a new dimension to the experience. Each track has a unique concept and every one of them begs to be played up loud and sang along to. The lyrics are acerbic, speaking of love, heartache, and what it’s like to be a girl with equal amounts of sentimentality and wit. Barter sings with the same kind of straightforward clarity she performs live; her voice is clear and sure, she is self assured and damn I’ll say it again she is cool.
While Girlie Bits is undoubtedly the track that’s lead to the most car singalongs with my sisters so far, the standout track for me is one that got under my skin some time ago – The Captain. One of the mellower tracks on A Suitable Girl, it sings of heartache and the sadness you can’t do much about but just make it through. It’s a slow build with a huge payoff in the final verse and it’s honestly been on my mind since I saw it live during the Jezabel’s tour late last year.
Barter has a Facebook series called The History Grrrls about powerful female musicians of the 20th and 21st century who have shaped her musical leanings and shares music to a related Spotify playlist. Hole, Patti Smith, Madonna ; all of these influences and more are evident (I’ll take the liberty of adding The Cranberries to that list in my personal opinion) and Barter’s love of the 80s and 90s sings through on A Suitable Girl . The entire album is washed in what is becoming Barter’s signature: 90s nostalgic, guitar heavy, grungy indie rock vibes; to the extent that as I drove through Melbourne yesterday with this album blasting, I felt like a deleted scene from a teen movie à la Kat Stratford in the immortal 10 Things I Hate About You. In fact, if there’s a genre Ali Barter fits into most neatly, it’s Angry Girl Music of the Indie Rock Persuasion.
A Suitable Girl is out now on Ronnie Records/Intertia available on digital download from Spotify, and Apple Music and CD from Music Glue, JB HiFi and independent stores