Album Review: Various Artists – Good For You (2016 EP)

2015 was a good year for hometown hero Courtney Barnett, who went from an indie darling into a huge success story and Grammy nominee. 2015 was also kind to the label she started, Milk! Records, when a year of growth and huge sales of Courtney’s debut album was rewarded with an AIR award for Best Independent Label. The forthcoming release of the new six track compilation EP Good For You, then, has the air of a victory lap for Barnett and her label. It’s a fun record that shows Courtney and her labelmates letting their hair down, and some of the songs will be perfect soundtracks for a laid-back barbecue.

It’s fitting that the album will be released on Valentine’s Day, as the festivities on Good For You begin with the much publicised “Three Packs a Day”, an ode to an obsession that has been overlooked for too long in popular music: two minute noodles. The subject matter may be fairly silly, but the tune is unbelievably catchy and Barnett’s lyrics are, as usual, witty and true to life. It’s worth noting that what for Barnett is essentially a throwaway, boasts a melody that would be some other artists’ best achievement.

Track two sees The Finks take the stage with the beautiful ballad “Moonlighting”, whose simple, beautiful lyrics perfectly match the upbeat but slightly melancholic music. The Finks are the true revelation of this EP – if “Moonlighting” is anything to go by, fans of anything from Mac DeMarco to Bob Dylan will want to check out their other stuff. I bought their debut album just based on the strength of “Moonlighting”.

At the halfway point, we get a fantastic rocker from the legendary Jen Cloher, with “Famously Monogamous.” As usual from Cloher, it’s a fuzzy, rollicking tune with wry and sometimes biting lyrics. One thing that really shows in this compilation is consistency – all the artists bring their own style and tone to the record, but the fact that all of the tracks were recorded at around the same time and with some of the same band members lends Good For You a sense of cohesiveness that most other compilations of this sort lack. Also, every artist brings some of their best music, and particularly, best lyrics, to the game.

The last three tracks of the album showcase some of Milk! Records’ more up and coming artists, and, if these songs are anything to go by, we can expect big things in the future. The fourth track, “Skyscraper Skyline Blues” by Fraser A. Gorman, is a lovely singalong whose naive (in a good way) lyrics and delivery are reminiscent of the Moldy Peaches. What starts off as a simple love song unfolds into something pretty unexpected in the second half of the song, as we realise the title of the track is a literal description of events.

The next track, by East Brunswick All Girls Choir, is a slow-burning ballad that bursts into a huge chorus at around the minute mark. It’s the longest track on the album, and perhaps one that will take a few listens to get into, but persistent listeners will be rewarded by a subtle and powerful song.

Finally, we have a fairly abrupt ending in the garage punk of “Nice Haircut” by Ouch My Face. It’s a fairly bizarre tune, with barely comprehensible lyrics, but the angular nature of its structure is actually fairly engaging. Also, the sublime-to-the-ridiculous effect of having this as the song that comes straight after the intense “Red Wine Lipstick” somehow makes “Nice Haircut” the perfect way to end a compilation that puts the emphasis on fun.

All in all, this is a great showcase of some of Courtney Barnett’s less well known label-mates, with a nice mix of styles and approaches. The compilation will have only a limited physical release, and I suggest you snap up a copy.

Review Score: 8.7 out of 10.

Good For You is released through Milk! Records on February 14th.