Brandi Carlile’s In These Silent Days comes “Right on Time”

Brandi Carlile

In These Silent Days

Elektra · October 1, 2021

CONTENT WARNING: Due to the content of this album, this review will mention abuse. It is also important to note that this album explores this theme. Listener discretion is advised.

Brandi Carlile’s new album In These Silent Days is a sometimes folky foray into Carlile’s roots in country rock. The album is a mix of sad, dark, and comforting – the perfect soundtrack as seasonal depression sets in with the onset of the colder weather in the Northeast. Carlile shows off her more than capable vocals in standout tracks “Right on Time” and “Broken Horses,” and her stellar lyricism in “Stay Gentle” and “Throwing Good After Bad.”

The album opens with “Right on Time,” whose lyrics feature the title of the album. This track is a perfect example of what Brandi Carlile does best: her raspy, vibrato-filled belt that cracks with emotion at just the right moments, accompanied by lyrics that effectively convey emotion and tell a story without sacrificing brevity. “Right on Time” follows a similar instrumental build to some of Carlile’s other songs, like “Party of One,” and “The Story,” and feels quintessentially “Brandi.”

With such a strong opener, expectations are high going into the second track, “You and Me on the Rock,” which features Lucius. The song is unremarkable, save from its instrumental similarity to “Big Yellow Taxi” by Joni Mitchell. Unfortunately, this song, as well as “When You’re Wrong” and “Sinners, Saints, and Fools” don’t hold up against their more effective counterparts.

“When You’re Wrong” is quite strong lyrically, but the instrumentation is lackluster. In comparison to Carlile’s usual complexity and layering in instrumentation, its simplicity is almost distracting. On the other hand, “Sinners, Saints, and Fools” is musically complex and engaging with the inclusion of gang vocals and an orchestra, but the lyrics to the chorus don’t quite match up. It seems like the lyrics were meant for another song. The instrumental feels too empowering, but not positive enough for it to be satirical in the context of the lyrics.

The third track, “Broken Horses,” is by far the show-stopper of this album. Carlile showcases her higher belting register. She shows grit in her voice, and she is angry. It seems like Carlile has come to terms with some childhood trauma at the hands of her father, as evidenced by the lyrics: “I wear my father’s leather on the inside of my skin,” and “It is time to spit you out like lukewarm water from my mouth / I will always taste the apathy, but I won’t pass it down.” Carlile’s fear of perpetuating cycles of abuse is mentioned again in “Mama Werewolf,” where she tells her child to kill her if she causes harm. When Carlile repeats the first verse of “Broken Horses” toward the end of the song, the song builds instrumentally and emphasizes the lyrics “You had better call your priest and hope the devil gets the rest / Before I do.” Brandi Carlile is reclaiming her life and her past from her father.

Speaking of the past, “Broken Horses” is followed by “Letter to the Past.” Carlile writes to a subject in situations similar to the ones she has been in her own life. She purposefully keeps the specifics vague, but based on where this song falls on the album, one can assume it’s a letter to those who have dealt with an abusive parent. The lyric “you’re gonna feel it in your back / Believe me, I oughta know,” could be a reference to how Carlile may have been beaten by her father’s leather belt, as alluded to in the first line of the previous track. Carlile’s emotional voice crack on the word “ever” in the line, “don’t you ever feel alone inside” is beautiful and full of the desire to let the listener know they are not alone. This song is one of multiple on the album in which Carlile ensures the listener that even if no one else is, she is here.

Carlile comforts the listener again in “Stay Gentle,” but uses a different tactic this time. She appeals to the listener’s inner child through a lullaby-like instrumentation and melody, with easy to understand lyrics. It is a lovely reminder to not lose sight of the helpful and wise parts of one’s inner child, as well as a reminder that one’s spirit is the purest version of oneself: “The kingdom of Heaven belongs to a boy / While his worry belongs to a man / … / Oh gentle, unbreakable you.”

The album closes with the piano ballad “Throwing Good After Bad.” The lyrics are painfully honest, as Carlile calls out her lover for the issues in their relationship. Carlile’s quiet, barely intelligible voice on “I know you loved me once” is heartbreaking, and as she gets more emotional, her voice gets more powerful. Her tasteful use of voice cracks and transitions into her head voice exemplify the ups and downs Carlile feels as she comes to terms with the end of her relationship. After such high intensity tracks like “Broken Horses” and “Sinners, Saints, and Fools,” “Throwing Good After Bad” is the much-needed cool down that ties the whole album together nicely.

In These Silent Days is an exceptional addition to Brandi Carlile’s discography. While there are some tracks that feel a bit underwhelming, Carlile makes up for it and more by showcasing her well-rounded musicianship on the rest of the album. Carlile reminds her audience that no one is alone, both through explicit comfort, and by sharing her own stories, and as the days get shorter in the wake of the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, that message is needed now more than ever.

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