By the Way I Forgive You by Brandi Carlile: Music Review

By the Way I Forgive You by Brandi CarlileBy the Way I Forgive you by Brandi Carlile is an incredibly successful album garnering six Grammy nominations and winning two. It is a little bit of folk mixed with some country twang and pop influences, resulting in a wonderful variety of music that grasps your interest from the first song and holds it tight throughout the album. Themes of love and heartache with an overarching concept of forgiveness blanket the album. The songs are extremely relatable, intimate and delivered with a simplicity of sound and a pure and honest voice that perfects inflection and conveys so much emotion.

My Favourite Songs

“Every Time I Hear That Song” is the opening track on the album and is about something I think we can all relate to, memories of a past relationship spurred by hearing an old song. The sorrowful recollection of a failed relationship is tempered by the realization that she is better off now that it is over. What I enjoy most is that it isn’t focused on the negative but rather on forgiveness and moving on. The song begins with some wonderful acoustic guitar picking and a lovely twang in Carlile’s voice, giving it a distinctly country feel.

“The Joke” is by far my favourite song on the album both in terms of its message and its music. It is song written for people who face ridicule for not conforming to social norms and gender roles prescribed by society. The poignant and lyrically charged ballad begins with Carlile’s ethereal vocals backed merely by a gentle and melodic piano. However, it steadily builds in intensity with the introduction of drums, orchestral strings and powerful vocals that mirror the passion of the message. The periodic breaks in Carlile’s voice infuse so much emotion into the song it really tugs at the heartstrings.

“Hold Out Your Hand” is a fast and playful sounding song that carries a deeper meaning than the spirited tone initially suggests. It is a powerful call to take action, eschewing violence and is the most political song on the album. I am amazed at how the song manages to successfully combine the hillbilly sound with that of a full on anthem as Carlile’s voice alternates from too fast and loose to inspirational battle cry. It is epic.

“Sugartooth” is heart wrenching song telling the tale of a man trapped by addiction. Carlile’s voice rises and falls, wavers and gains strength throughout the song. The ebb and flow of both her voice and the music pull you into the song and her vocal inflections evoke so much emotion, it is remarkable.

“Party of One” is a heartbreakingly reflective song about someone waging an internal battle over running away from or accepting love. The song begins with a only a piano that progresses from gentle to bold key hits, beautifully matching Carlile’s voice that progresses from wavering and overwrought, to strong and determined as she wrestles with her feelings. Add to this the beautiful strings that are interspersed with her revelations bringing a sense of hope to the ending of the song and there are just so many feels happening. 

The Conclusion

This album definitely lives up to the hype. The variety of sound and subject matter, the simple and elegant music and the range and inflection of Carlile’s voice make this an unforgettable listening experience. There is a little something for every taste on this album and I highly recommend giving it a listen.

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Artist Bio

Brandi Carlile is an American singer/songwriter born in the town of Ravensdale, Washington (near Seattle). She grew up in the small, somewhat isolated town and spent her childhood enjoying the outdoors and making music with her siblings. Carlile began singing when she was around eight and started playing the guitar and piano as well as writing songs in her early teens.  In 2002 she came out as a lesbian and in 2012 she married Catherine Shepherd with whom she now has two children.

With several successful albums under her belt, she has collaborated with the likes of the Indigo Girls and Elton John. Her music has spanned across several genres including folk, pop, R&B, rock and country. She has an incredibly powerful, emotionally laden voice that is sophisticated in its subtlety and glorious in its strength.

Bits and Bobs

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