Tag Archives: By the Way

Song by Song. Brandi’s By the Way, I Forgive You

20 Feb

My Spotify went one track passed the new album, and it showed how almost, melancholy By the Way, I Forgive You sounds.  It’s subtle, but by comparison to the two prior albums, it’s a lot less light-hearted.

  1. “Everytime I Hear that Song”

It’s kind of a slow opening to the album.  I would have put something more upbeat in the first spot.  But the track definitely provides the foreshadowing for what is to come:  A sentimental, serious, from-the-heart string (pun!) of songs.  The chorus is very Fleetwood Mac.  I like what the song says though.  It talks about how bad relationships are actually good because it brings us to where we were supposed to be in life.  The trajectory of our love and family would be completely different without those failed relationships.  And hearing certain songs or seeing certain pictures, triggers those memories and makes us wonder what might have been or even sentimentalize what opportunities were lost because things didn’t go a better way.

2. “The Joke”

The message that the joke is on the detractors is a good one.  The band is saying, ‘you be you, and live your life, despite what others think about it.’  The background music is resonant, and swirling, and provides enough drama to help get the point across.

3.  “Hold Your Hand”

Probably my favorite track (so far) and absolutely my fave upon the first listen through.  It’s reminiscent of that old western style that focuses more on telling a story then singing.  It reminds me of Jonny Cash, and the way he talks through every song–but it’s better.  Because there are great key/cadence/style changes that show-case Brandi’s strong voice.  I like the combination of both styles in one song.  I like how it’s cheeky, yet strong on singing-technique.  This is what the band does very best–change it up in the middle of the song.  Think “The Story” and the title track, “Firewatcher’s Daughter.”   On this song, the shouting is so fun after the 2.5 min mark!  What I could do with less of is the bad-da-das.  But I can see them involving the audience in that at a concert so maybe it will turn out all right. . .

4.  “The Mother”

I’m not down on this song.  It’s one of, if not THE strongest songs on the album.  It’s just that I heard it so early, it didn’t feel like part of the rest of the album.  I like that this song conveys love, but realism, too.  It’s one of the few mom-songs that’s not entirely lovey-dovey, super-saccharine.  Here is what little edge Brandi has left.  Sure, she’s up in the family lift all gung-ho–but she knows what she’s not doing anymore also.  I like how Brandi acknowledges that she’s missing out on things, kids are messy, and motherhood is sometimes about being tired and giving up on your own wild flights of fancy.  Also, the video is cute.  Though, I wonder how many takes it took because Evangeline looks bored.

5.  “Whatever You Do”

Another slow song.  As a whole, I think the album would have benefitted from something a little more dancy by this point.  I love the line, “I never said I’m sorry, but I meant it.” It shows how serious the writing was for this latest album.  Very thoughtful lyrics are throughout.  The best part of the song for me is after 3:08 min when the instrumentals really come out loud.  It’s haunting, and melancholy, and final.

6.  “Fulton County Jane Doe”

I had really high hopes due to the title that this would be the raucous track of the album.  Alas, it’s another kind of internal dialogue that is quiet and lulling. I think Brandi’s yips at the end are the best thing about this one.

7.   “Sugartooth”

Searching.  Judging someone without walking in their shoes.  Bad habits that keep pulling you back.  Guns and suicide.  Finding peace in death.  Without reading the lyrics or hearing the backstory, I find this song a little meandering.  Is there one takeaway point or is it just a conglomeration of ideas?  I do enjoy how Brandi sounds like she means whatever she’s singing–whatever it’s about.

8. “Most of All”

How your parents are with you even when they’re not physically there.  You resemble them.  Your speech patterns end up sounding similar.  You internalize their lessons.  This one is also a little Fleetwood in the chorus, and I think that’s reaching a little.  I believe they should stop relying on their inspirations or fitting in a certain genre, and come up with something more original.  It’s nice that the song-lyrics go full circle though.  And the emphasis on family goes well with the rest of the album.

9. “Harder to Forgive”

I think this one might be the catchiest song on the album.  Finally!  One you want to sing with.  Though the subject matter is still sentimental and internally-probing, it has some happy sentiments in it as well.  “When every broken heart seemed like the end” shows that the band is not at that stage anymore.  I like how the song goes into a march.  Again, these cadence changes are some of the band’s best work.  Where I lose it though, is when the twin’s humming sounds like kazoos.  Not. a. fan.  I think maybe it was supposed to emulate the string section, but it sounds too circusy for the previous part of the song.  I do like how Brandi ends it on a partial scream.

10. “Party of One”

I like when Brandi takes to the piano.  She doesn’t do it nearly enough.  But this song is kind of a bummer to end on.  I would like them ending on a more uplifting note.  Or at least something the conveys some inner peace has been achieved as a result of all the afore-mentioned forgiveness.  Or else–what is the audience motivation to practice forgiveness?  Or what exactly is the album trying to say about forgiveness?  Just do it, despite the difficulty of it, to–feel alone and disappointed?  I think the message should be more uplifting and present some benefit from the forgiveness.  Not end on a divorce.  And the symphonic end is kind of nice, but it felt like they didn’t really know how to close out the album, so they just played and played.

 

So that was what I gleaned from listeninging only.  I’m excited to read the track notes, hear the stories behind the songs at concerts, and see articles on the content.  I probably missed a lot of the intent–I hope so!

 

Brandi Carlile: By the Way, I Forgive You

20 Feb

Let’s get the superficial out of the way first, why don’t we?

I hate the cover art on the album.  It makes Brandi look weird and old.  Like her face is dirty and she’s a hobo or something.  Speaking of physical appearance, I can’t help but be disappointed that Brandi looks old in the face.  And she’s gained weight.  And has mom hair.  The too-cool-for-school rock star vibe I used to see in her promo material and at concerts has been replaced with a mature-almost matronly tiredness.  And I hate that it matters to me.  I don’t want to believe I was only a fan because Brandi was nice to look at and seemed on the cusp of alternative-trends.  But I did used to really enjoy that finally, FINALLY the gays could have an icon that was attractive.  It’s not that common, you know.  So there is still the writing and singing talent, but that coolness is gone. . .

Another thing that had me questioning how fickle I may be as a fan was (very unfortunately) the music.  I mean, I like “The Mother” because it’s a unique take on a common subject.  But I’d heard it at a couple of concerts already.  And Mom songs are. . .  only so personal to me.  I also snuck listens to the first few singles on YouTube, and was really sad there was no Bear Creek-esk song.  Not even any upbeat song!  Where did Brandi’s edge go, I wondered?  It made it worse that all the videos were obviously from the same session, with no costume changes, no effects at all.  The band just played.  The songs all blended together sounding mostly the same.  I was dismayed that my fan-days were over.

But I have been listening, and buying the music, and contributing on Facebook comments, and attending concerts since the Indigo Girls (another one of my favorite bands) called Brandi the third Indigo Girl.  And I think Brandi is a good person–given all personal communications I’ve seen on her page and through media.  So I wanted to really like Brandi’s new stuff.

I listened to the album as a whole on Spotify (I pre-ordered the album, but cheaped out on shipping so it’s not here yet) with an open mind.  And I missed that upbeat song.  I wanted a “Hard Way Home,” “Dreams,” or “Alibi.”  But what I could appreciate right off was Brandi’s flawless, heartful singing.  And the instrumentation–the strings are beautiful.  I could hear right away Brandi was really going for it with her notes, too.  She can always hit them, but this album had a lot of passion that was easily discerned through her voice.

I listened again.  Once, I stopped listening for that amped up song that I long for, I could notice that By the Way, I Forgive You is a lyrically-driven CD.  Brandi and Tim and Phil wrote from their hearts and souls and you can absorb that after a few listens through the album.  So I come away, actually feeling like Brandi returned to her original fans by writing something closer to Give Up the Ghost, but at a different, more settled stage of life.  She did just what I have been asking her to do–go back to her roots and be her authentic self.

So she’s not nearly as cool as she used to be.  She looks tired.  Just like me.  She weighs more–just like me.  That happens in your 30s.  And the neat thing?  In your 30s you don’t really care as much about that stuff.  You learn what’s really important.  Family.  Love.  Forgiveness.  Moving forward.  So even though I started out bummed at Brandi’s new persona (ie NOT having one.  But stripping away the edges and just settling into herself) I’m, actually pleased about the direction.  So Brandi, please forgive me for objectifying you, and not remembering to look to your internal beauty and talent.

But Brandi, please do me a favor–still play the rockin’ songs at concerts, jazz up the studio version of at least ONE of the songs on this album so I want to jump, stomp my feet, and scream the lyrics–and on the next album include another amped up song. Or a few of them.  That’s all I ask.