Ali Barter: A Suitable Girl

She's the musical equivalent of your cool friend in high school - but is she what you need now?

A Suitable Girl, the debut full length from Melbourne indie-rocker Ali Barter has taken a while to come to fruition, but that's ok, because it’s the '90’s soundtrack to your youth you never knew you needed. Coming off the success of earlier singles Far Away and Girlie Bits¸ and most recently Cigarette¸ the LP is a collection of teenage narratives that are all too relateable.

Cigarettes seem to be a recurring theme in her music, so it’s fitting that the opening track is called just that – Cigarette. Sounding like the theme music to a B-Grade sitcom, the opening chords are laid back and relaxed. Climaxes are something Barter is good at, and this track demonstrates that fact. The distorted guitar chords combined with her “say it like it is” style of singing and create the foundation characteristics of her signature style, however the almost nasally timbre of her vocals can be annoying at times. The lyrics are a bit fickle in this one – “If I shaved my head, would you tell your friends you don’t really care” – and lack the feminist edge some of her other work has, but hey, it’s still a fun listen.

Girlie Bits creates a juxtaposition between the innocent timbre of her vocals, and the sarcastic, rub your nose in it lyrics. Guitar riffs in the verse that follow the vocal melody contrast with the fuzzy distortion in the build, bathing the final product in a very '90's glow. Ali's classical vocal training is more obvious in this track, with the chorus melodies ringing high and clear. With condescending lyrics such as “give us a smile princess / it’s better for business” bemoaning the woes of misogyny, the track delivers that feminist firepower that was missing before: a giant punch in the face to stereotype enforcing assholes.

Unfortunately, some of the other songs on her record have the distinct flavour of sandwich filler, following the same structural and thematic pattern over and again, for a result that's a bit bland, a bit overdone. It’s a shame, as the musicality and the concept is all there, it’s just, y'know, couldn't you change the formula up a bit?

Ali Barter is more a relatable girl, rather than a suitable girl and you can only play that game for so long. Although the record has some definite highlights, it is all a bit same-same at times. It’s refreshing to be able to connect so whole-heartedly to music in a way that’s *not* touching, but how many times do we really want to remember our high-school hey days?

-Olivia Shoesmith.

Album Details

Album Title: A Suitable Girl
Artist: Ali Barter
Record Label: (Ronnie / Inertia)