Brandi Carlile
By the Way, I Forgive You


4.0
excellent

Review

by theBonerKing USER (9 Reviews)
February 20th, 2018 | 135 replies


Release Date: 2018 | Tracklist

Review Summary: The devil can’t get your soul

Brandi Carlile’s music operates as a salve for life’s pains. Despite working in the increasingly overdone and frequently tepid style of folky singer/songwriter music, her music is distinguished by the undeniable sense of heart with which she and constant collaborators and co-songwriters Phil and Tim Hanseroth - often referred to as the Twins - imbue it. By the Way, I Forgive You, Carlile and the Twins’ sixth record and possibly their most consistent to date, continues this trend in grand fashion, delivering to their fans another beautiful set of songs to cherish.

The album draws on the influences of Americana and 70s folk rock, the songs adorned with simple arrangements of guitar, piano, drum and bass. The music is tastefully executed but rarely flashy - with a classy production job by Dave Cobb, the current go-to man for roots music, Carlile’s vocals and lyrics are brought to the fore, with the Twins’ solid-as-ever harmonies coloring in the background. Indeed to the extent that all of Carlile’s music is collaborative, this record feels like the most “hers” she’s done in some years. Occasionally the music will swell with lush string sections and on “Hold Out Your Hand” she is joined by a chanting group vocal, but these moments serve mostly to backup and provide emphasis to Carlile’s words. That is not to say that the instrumentation is merely secondary; indeed, its simplicity serves to make its impact all the more effective in its grander moments, such as when “Party of One” transitions from its sparse piano introduction to an orchestral showcase.

Given the relative sparsity of the music, the lyrics are due much of the listener’s attention. In Carlile’s own words, By the Way, I Forgive You is an album “about finding a way to fundamentally forgive and accept life for being f*cking hard.” It feels like a piece of work to live inside of, one that finds insight in both big and small moments. Across these ten songs Carlile traces the lines of memory, family, regret, faith and forgiveness. Some tracks are explicitly autobiographical while others are affecting character sketches of lost souls. An example of the first category is “The Mother”, wherein she reflects on how becoming a mother has changed her perspective on life, as the rest of the world goes on just as before but her mind is now constantly consumed with thoughts of her daughter. Another stunning moment is the country-rocker “Sugartooth”, about a man “born with a sweet tooth he couldn't beat” whose life has been ruined by addiction - the titular sugartooth becoming a symbol of that inescapable temptation which, along with mental illness, ultimately proves his ruin. The track becomes a real tear-jerker toward the end as Carlile intones, “They found him lying on his bed / With a gun in his hand and a quiet head / His broken heart now is finally gone / But I know that he had to hurt for too long.” Similarly, in “Fulton County Jane Doe” Carlile draws on the true story of an unidentified female corpse found in 1988, consoling her that she was more than just a forgotten body but a person who was once loved and cared for. These stories evoke pathos gently, Carlile’s committed delivery and the plainspoken words doing most of the communicating, drawing the listener along but never coming across as preachy.

Over the course of these tales, Carlile struggles with her faith. God and the devil are frequent recurring themes, with lines such as, “The devil don't take no break” and “If there's a God in heaven, you can show me” peppered throughout. She seems to be grappling with how a benevolent God could claim to watch over a world in which has everywhere been tainted by the devil’s inexorable influence. She doesn’t provide a clear answer to these questions, but instead seems to suggest that we find strength within ourselves and to draw support from others around us. Indeed, in “Hold Out Your Hand”, Carlile offers herself up as a fount of fortitude, crying out, “Hold out your hand / Take hold of mine now / Round and round we go / Don't you wanna dance" / I'm a dying man” - a striking image, shunning the bridles of life and dancing in the face of death.

In the end, though, Carlile seems to find consolation in spite of life’s trials. She knows that “Sometimes it’s harder to forgive / Than to forget,” but she strives to reach forgiveness anyways. By the Way, I Forgive You is an account of a woman staring a cruel world in the eye and finding the beauty and comfort in the spaces between the pain. The album’s Joni Mitchell-reminiscent closer ends with a declaration of devotion, Carlile proclaiming, “I am yours” repeatedly to an estranged lover. She seems to be advising the listener to do the same - yes, life is f*cking hard, but don’t let it defeat you; devote yourself to those you care about. It may sound like a platitude, but she conveys these messages with such conviction that it’s hard not to leave By the Way, I Forgive You feeling just a little better about everything.



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user ratings (59)
Chart.
3.8
excellent


Comments:Add a Comment 
theBoneyKing
February 19th 2018


16700 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Review's a bit rough but I'm impatient so posted anyway w/e. Comments/criticism appreciated.

My favorite album of the year so far. "The Joke" is a true stunner.

"The Joke" official music video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5r6A2NexF88

Digging: The National - I Am Easy to Find

MarsKid
Contributing Reviewer
February 19th 2018


8943 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Solid review and solid album. Wish every track was as strong as "The Joke"

theBoneyKing
February 19th 2018


16700 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Her albums all tend to have a handful of tracks that kind of blow the rest of them out of the water - on this one those are "The Joke", "Sugartooth", and "Party of One" but I think this is pretty damn consistent all the way through and all of her albums are best after you've lived with them for a while, I know for me they're the sort of deal where I love them more because of personal memories associated with them than the pure quality of the music itself. But yeah either way Carlile is a real gem and I'm happy to see this album seems to be getting a bit more exposure than her last several have.

BlazinBlitzer
February 19th 2018


1362 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

"Her albums all tend to have a handful of tracks that kind of blow the rest of them out of the water - on this one those are "The Joke", "Sugartooth", and "Party of One"..."

I wasn't crazy about "Sugartooth", but "The Joke" and "Party of One" were phenomenal and they did indeed blow everything else out of the water. I wish I saw my face when I first heard "The Joke" because I must've looked stupid happy listening to that track.

TheSpaceMan
February 20th 2018


11950 Comments


nice rev dude, its a bit over saturated with quoted lyrics but thats just personal

Papa Universe
February 20th 2018


21060 Comments


by the way, i POS you

Digging: Rammstein - Rammstein

Dewinged
Contributing Reviewer
February 20th 2018


15838 Comments


Good stuff Boney, you should write more buddy.

The album bangs, even if I am not a big fan of this kind of country(ish) folk, there is latent quality on this.

Digging: Full of Hell - Weeping Choir

DoofusWainwright
February 20th 2018


19991 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Great review Boney, and I will return to this album and Brandi in general.



Small point, I was wondering if there was a way not to use as many 'Carlile's throughout the review - maybe putting in a few 'Brandi's or not referencing her as much. It only seemed a real issue in the longest para.



A pos, obviously.

AsleepInTheBack
February 20th 2018


5976 Comments


great stuff boney, may give this a whirl

theBoneyKing
February 20th 2018


16700 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Thanks guys!

Good points SpaceMan and Doof. Yeah reading it again now it’s definitly a bit too quote-y, will try to make some cuts for sure.

DivergentThinking
February 20th 2018


6227 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Awesome review... I've actually been thinking about reviewing this as well, it's a great record. I'm a sucker for that down-to-earth folk/Americana stuff, lol

Atari
Staff Reviewer
February 20th 2018


24620 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

And here it is!



Nicely done, Boney. The 3rd paragraph is my favorite - couldn’t agree more about the lyrics

Digging: Radiator Hospital - Sings "Music for Daydreaming"

theBoneyKing
February 20th 2018


16700 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Glad you’re digging it Soccer! And thanks Atari - yeah the lyrics here are very strong.

Shoutout to whoever featured this - my first featured review ever!

NorthernSkylark
February 20th 2018


9354 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

with those recs u have forced me to give this a spin

Digging: Cate Le Bon - Reward

theBoneyKing
February 20th 2018


16700 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Haha, nice. I might be overselling it a bit with the recs but I bet you’d enjoy this a fair bit.

butcherboy
February 20th 2018


9464 Comments


always a pleasure to pos a Boney review.. will listen tomorrow afternoon..

Chortles
February 20th 2018


21384 Comments


nice review Boney, this is a big boy

ProjectFreak
February 21st 2018


3629 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I'm usually not much for anything that comes close to Americana, but Hold Out Your Hand is fantastic, one of the best songs I've heard all year. Great review Boney, thanks for getting me to check this out.

Dylan620
February 21st 2018


4853 Comments


Yes a Boney review!!! And a fantastic one too, easy pos. This a good place to start if I've never jammed any Brandi before?

Digging: Death - Individual Thought Patterns

luci
February 21st 2018


10961 Comments


Probably won't check this, looks like terrible country music like Kenny Chesney or Lucinda Williams. No thanks.



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