Today feels like a holiday. A BIG HOLIDAY. I mean I took the goddamn off from work such is the significance of today.
Today, October 1, 2021 is ALBUM RELEASE DAY for BRANDI CARLILE!!!
Her seventh studio album “In These Silent Days” (Low Country Sound/Elektra Records) is out in the world and as I sit here and try to get a grip on myself, I’m on my 5th listening.
I awoke at about 6:15 this morning and ran downstairs like a seven year old version of myself on Christmas morning. I poured myself a cup of coffee, grabbed my Airpods, plunked myself down on the couch and took a few deep breaths.
Then I fired up Spotify (lest anyone feel the need to give me any grief about streaming, know that I have THREE signed copies of the album on vinyl that should be arriving, hopefully today but I didn’t want to wait until then to listen because I’m human) and dove into “In These Silent Days” like Dorothy taking the few steps on the yellow brick road towards salvation.
First off, here are a few key notes from the press release I received:
Inspired by the mining of her own history while writing this year’s #1 New York Times Best Selling memoir Broken Horses (Crown), In These Silent Days was conceived of while Carlile was quarantined at home with Phil and Tim Hanseroth. The ten songs chronicle acceptance, faith, loss and love and channel icons like David Bowie, Freddie Mercury, Elton John and Joni Mitchell—the latter two who, by some sort of cosmic alignment of the stars, have turned out to be close friends in addition to being her biggest heroes and inspirations.
Now here are my own thoughts on this motherfucking (I only use profanity when it is ABSOLUTELY REQUIRED) brilliant album.
“In These Silent Days” opens with the piano-based single “Right on Time” which dropped a few months ago and has more than two million streams on Spotify alone. The ballad is HUGE and emotional and heart-stabby and there’s already a harmony version and symphony version of it out there and they too are all the things.
When Carlile belts out the words “IT WASN’T RIGHT” toward the end of the song it’s a note for the ages. It’s a part the Red Sea kind of note. Such was the case when I heard it live in August. Jesus H. Christ.
Next up is the Joni Mitchell inspired “You and Me on The Rock” (featuring Holly and Jess from Lucius. OMG!). Before she and the band played it, Carlile told us at her Aug. 27 show at Thompson’s Point show in Portland, Maine that she could have made an entire Joni inspired album but decided to stick with the one song. When she played it for her friend Joni, Mitchell told her that it “sounds like a hit!”. And yeah. What Joni said. BTW, I have an entire Brandi related story about my JONI trucker cap but that’s a story for another day. “You and Me On The Rock” has early 70s vibes for days and I can’t imagine it won’t be released as a single. The song makes me and my inner flower child smile.
“This Time Tomorrow” is the third track and the only other one I’ve heard live from the album. It’s an acoustic ballad with just-kill-me-now-they’re-so-good harmony vocals from Tim and Phil Hanseroth. “The edges of the night might cause you sorrow/ You know I might not be around this time tomorrow/But I’ll always be with you…” I don’t care what is going on in your life, if you don’t get teary listening to this one I am going to check you for wires and batteries because you’re surely a robot.
“Broken Horses.” This one shares the title with Carlile’s memoir, published in March. Buckle up, y’all. This one slays. “I have worshipped at the alter of the puppet master’s rule,” wails Carlile as a gasoline soaked piano blazes behind for along with an electric guitar. “Only broken horses know to run,” proclaims Carlile and she’s not fucking around. This song ROCKS hard and I can’t wait to hear it live.
“Letter To The Past” has Carlile stepping off the gas pedal of “Broken Horses” and back into the ballad lane. “Folks are gonna lean on you and leave when the cracks appear/But darling I’ll be here/You’re my letter to the past.” Piano, acoustic guitar, just enough percussion and Carlile’s pristine voice. The song’s a thing of beauty. 100% lovely.
“Mama Werewolf.” The devil went down to Georgia decades ago but he’s still stomping his feet and he’s knocking at Carlile’s door with this song. “This curse again from my father’s kin/They fought the beast, I feel within/We don’t talk about it, And we don’t call its name/We just carry on, hoping it’ll change.” There’s a silver bullet in the song and Carlile looks for kindness. I’m here for it. All of it.
“When You’re Wrong.” Moody AF. “You lay down every night next to a goddamn liar/You may be here today, but tomorrow you’re a ghost.” It can’t be stated enough how phenomenal Carlile’s vocals are on this entire album. Even when she’s not belting a line out at the top of her lungs and, like on this track, is keeping things on the chiller side, those pipes are tremendous.
I found myself picking wildflowers in my mind listening to “Stay Gentle.” “Don’t let the world make you callous/Be ready to laugh/No one’s forgetten about us/There is light on your path.” I wonder if this is Elijah version of “The Mother” from “By The Way I Forgive You.” Either way, we should all heed this sweet advice because the world is so often a horrible place.
“Sinner Saints and Fools.” This might be, for the moment at least, my favorite track on the album. There’s a restrained fire and brimstone vibe to it as guitar licks rise like flames. The strings are like wolves showing their fangs. The drums fire warning shots. There’s a whole bunch going on over the course of four and a half minutes. It’s like an exorcism, prayer circle and whirling dervish sat down over a big old bottle of whiskey to settle a few scores. Hell to the yes.
“In These Silent Days” closes with the ballad “Throwing Good After Bad.” I wasn’t ready for it. If you see my heart anywhere, stick it in the closest mailbox, it’ll find its way back to me. Eventually. “People get addicted to the rush, the chase, the new/Just hoping that all that chaos will lead to something like this/I’ll get over you, but you won’t be whole until you do/You won’t find what you had, throwing good after bad.” Piano and voice. PIANO AND VOICE. Again, it doesn’t matter where you are in life. This song will slay you. I’m in pain listening to it. The hallmark of a truly excellent song as far as I’m concerned.
Brandi Carlile is one my absolute favorite artists. Half of this freakin’ site is posts about her. I’ll never run out of things to say about her. She keeps getting better. She keeps digging deeper. She keeps shining brighter. She keeps cutting out parts of her heart and serving them to us.
“In These Silent Days” is going to make her even bigger and more loved than she already is. This is it. She’s a superstar now. Be ready, world. Be ready.