Brandi Carlile - By The Way, I Forgive You Album Review

Story posted February 23, 2018 in Arts & Entertainment, CommRadio by Zach Hall

Americana singer/songwriter Brandi Carlile has built a career on versatility. From folk rock to alternative country, Carlile has managed to dazzle fans with a multitude of vocal styles and subject matter. From this versatility came great albums that entertained and explored her life and mind. On her sixth studio album By The Way, I Forgive You, Carlile’s ambitions grew greater than ever before. Unfortunately, some of these bold and ambitious decisions are overblown.

Carlile has dabbled with plenty of genres over the years. With By The Way, I Forgive You, it’s clear that her foray into alternative country is not yet done. From her moody vocal delivery to the instrumentation, elements of country are spread throughout the entirety of the album. By The Way, I Forgive You sees Carlile talk about love, heartbreak, motherhood and most importantly forgiveness. These moments across the album reflect Carlile’s personal life while also being relatable to the listener.

By The Way, I Forgive You is at its best when the instrumentation doesn’t overpower Carlile’s voice, allowing her to put emotion into every word. Some of the best moments on the album are the slower instances, where Brandi gives some of her most emotional and honest performances in her career. When By The Way, I Forgive You is at its worst, the instrumentation drones over Carlile’s vocals in drawn out, over emotional ballads that pop up just when the album is starting to get catchy. By The Way, I Forgive You also stumbles when the tone shifts abruptly, making the album sound disjointed. This happens a few times, but none more apparent than “Hold Out Your Hand,” which starts with a fast-paced acoustic guitar melody, that immediately transitions to a slow, overly emotional ballad that takes up the majority of the song. These problems hinder the overall flow of the album.

Carlile’s ambitions extended to the production on By The Way, I Forgive You as well. Carlile brought on Dave Cobb and Shooter Jennings, both who have had years of experience in the country genre. The decision to bring on these two helps the authenticity of the country elements that make up By The Way, I Forgive You. Co-writers and longtime band members Phil and Tim Hanseroth also return, giving great performances throughout the albums ten tracks. There is a good amount of instrumental variety present throughout the album, too however it succumbs to the issues of overly dramatic ballads that are littered throughout the entire album. These instances break up the flow and almost always overstay their welcome. The abrupt tonal switches throughout are made even more dramatic by the sudden instrumental changes that are jarring rather than entertaining.

By The Way, I Forgive You is an ambitious project with plenty of great ideas but is held back by its inconsistencies. These great ideas are sideswiped for overblown emotional ballads and jarring tonal shifts. Too many ideas were put into these ten songs, making it harder for all those ideas to be fully fleshed out. But that should discourage Carlile from staying ambitious, for, with a little more refinement and time, she has the potential to release a modern Americana classic.

Rating: 7/10
 

Zach Hall is a Junior majoring in Broadcast Journalism. To contact him, email zth5043@psu.edu.