Willi Carlisle
Critterland


4.0
excellent

Review

by Matty CONTRIBUTOR (59 Reviews)
February 21st, 2024 | 36 replies


Release Date: 01/10/2024 | Tracklist

Review Summary: That's Mom in the kitchen singing sweet by and by

With ‘Peculiar, Missouri’ being my introduction to Willi Carlisle’s brand of country music, I found a developing hype in my heart for what his next chapter would bring. ‘Critterland’ sort of just dropped without much fanfare to the point where I hadn’t even realized that it was released. Going in completely cold without hearing a single teaser sort of worked to my advantage as I was able to really judge this story with a sort of naivety and wonder that hearing snippets beforehand would have interrupted. Carlisle’s lyrics are vivacious like a picture-book with his words just calmly painting a wooded-landscape in a Bob Ross-esque way. There’s a simplicity to the language he uses while alluding and metaphorizing thoughts and concepts in ways that feel foreign especially in the scope of country music.

The opening track and namesake of the record immediately bounces you into an upbeat harmonica and banjo driven tune that introduces you into the world of 'Critterland'. It’s vocal quips and melody choices compliment Carlisle’s delivery with the chorus being especially catchy and memorable. I also love the verbosity of this song; so much content and context to find throughout with such a hurried delivery. The pace of this track immediately subsides with the sophomore track offering a more subdued, quiet acoustic guitar driven ballad. Lyrically and musically, this might be my favorite cut on this record. The emotional magnitude of Carlisle’s vocals in the chorus almost brings me tears with each word feeling like a dagger into my soul. The love for his mother coupled with such vivid storytelling and lyrical motifs is unmatched in modern day country music. With most of popular country music feeling vapid and surface level, Carlisle offers so much more with sincerity and love.

The record meanders between instrumentally sparse ballads, simple folk-driven bops and emotionally charged tearjerkers. Every song feels like an essential piece to populating 'Critterland' and defining its motives and feelings. “The Arrangements” feels like a bitter ode to an estranged father whose life was defined by alcoholism and abuse while feeling like a letter offered to the wind as closure. Carlisle immediately substantiates his feelings in the opening lines “He was dead inside my head long before he died/So making the arrangements felt natural, felt nice.” The track “I Want No Children” is simple in its message offering a desire to not have children and not continue his name with the staunch reasoning of lack of self-love and lack of desire to have control over someone. “When the Pills Wears Off” is a desperate and emotionally demanding listen describing the trials of drug abuse and those that Carlisle has lost due to addiction. Complimented by quiet pianos and lightly plucked acoustic guitars, this song feels like a warning, a love letter and an apology all wrapped up into a very powerful story. Each croon and each verse yearn for your attention to understand the severity of this disease and the mental turmoil that develops for everyone involved and around.

My only qualm with this record is some of the instrumentals do feel just a little bit too sparse especially on a track like “Two-Headed Lamb” which is almost entirely only driven by an accordion which in all honesty, is not my favorite instrument sonically. The monster of a final track clocking in at over 7 minutes is mostly spoken word with the occasional vocalization and is mainly backdropped by the dense pitter patter of rain. Only in the final minute is there some instrumentation and while ultimately, the story told is fascinating and enthralling, the overall feel and lack of musicality of the track leaves me desiring just a bit more.

With all that said, this record is a wonderful follow-up to “Peculiar, Missouri” with themes of love, loss, addiction, and sexuality continuing to play a vital role in Carlisle’s stories. Vocally, Carlisle’s delivery is dense, verbose and ultimately very warm while his lyrical prowess remains astute and honest. Having listened through this project about half a dozen times so far, I’m still finding little defining inflections and examples of wordplay that offer a sort of replay ability, little nuggets of gold in a diamond mine. If you loved any of his previous work, this should be right up your alley and if you’re interested in exploring country music, I highly recommend you give this a listen.



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user ratings (43)
3.9
excellent


Comments:Add a Comment 
XyphDryne
February 21st 2024


380 Comments


Great read, thanks for the review. Just learned about this dude couple of days ago, but already loved his home live video of Higher Lonesome. Great musician and seems to be a really nice, thoughtful guy. Gonna czech in more detail.

Kompys2000
Emeritus
February 21st 2024


9409 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

YESSSSSS THANK U BASED MATTY

Kompys2000
Emeritus
February 21st 2024


9409 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Love how the opener is this jaunty joie de vivre type thing and then the next two tracks are respectively about the deaths of his mother and father

DadKungFu
Staff Reviewer
February 21st 2024


4695 Comments


This needed a review so bad

mkmusic1995
Contributing Reviewer
February 22nd 2024


1696 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Thanks fellas! That switch up from title track to two devastating songs is such a bold move and I love it!

Sunnyvale
Staff Reviewer
February 22nd 2024


5811 Comments

Album Rating: 3.8

Glad to see this get a review, well-done.



Need to spend more time with this one, it has some massive highlights.

Hawks
February 22nd 2024


86681 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Gotta hear this.

Scoot
February 22nd 2024


22160 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

yeah this is incredible, dude is like a folkier cash

Hawks
February 22nd 2024


86681 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Yep this is fucking fantastic wow.

mkmusic1995
Contributing Reviewer
February 22nd 2024


1696 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Big agree with the Cash comparison. Has that storytelling ability that reels you in.

theBoneyKing
February 22nd 2024


24355 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

So glad for this incredible album to have a review here! Easily my fav of the year so far. Am having fun watching the RYM teens get filtered by it after it hit #3 on the 2024 charts there.

neekafat
Staff Reviewer
February 23rd 2024


26013 Comments


ooooooh this sounds wonderful

Kompys2000
Emeritus
February 24th 2024


9409 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Neek u will ADORE the opener here

theBoneyKing
February 26th 2024


24355 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Some seriously stupid shit going down in the album’s RYM page rn

Hawks
February 26th 2024


86681 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Cause RYM is trash lol. Kompys is correct also. Opener is my fav here.

DoofDoof
February 26th 2024


14935 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Just checked the comment box, seems to be filtering the hopeless and the ignorant

MunsuLight
February 29th 2024


718 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Opener is so dope but also a big fan of When the Pills Wear Off



Dope country record. Debating between 4 and 4.5 for this

theBoneyKing
February 29th 2024


24355 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Your heart will lead you to the right answer ;-D

InfernalDeity
Contributing Reviewer
March 3rd 2024


596 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

RYM is insanely crittercle. I'll see myself out

dedex
Staff Reviewer
March 6th 2024


12773 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

this is great even for a dirty non-lyric euro mf like me. great analysis Matty!



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