Thursday, July 29, 2010

Brandi Carlile - Give Up The Ghost (2009)

Brandi Carlile - Give Up The Ghost (2009, Columbia)
Genre: Folk-Rock

I can't stop listening to this album. Carlile's voice is big and bold, soaring and breaking at just the right moments, belting in some songs, using a truly ethereal falsetto in others. The opener, "Looking Out" is folk that packs a punch -- and I feel so feeble and tongue-tied when I try to write about music, so, really, just read the Pop Matters review. "Dreams" is equally catchy, and (like Slant Magazine notes) would've been all over the airwaves during the Lilith Fair days. The lovely, gentle melody of "That Year" feels more like the tune to a love song, rather than a ballad about a high school friend's suicide, but that counterpoint works incredibly well. "Caroline," one of the album's more upbeat numbers, is a girl/girl love song (yay for out lesbian musicians!), featuring piano and surprisingly understated back-up vocals by Elton John (if I hadn't read any reviews, I wouldn't have known it was him).

I wish there were more up-tempo numbers like "Looking Out," "Dreams" and the fantastic "Dying Day," but the slower tunes are growers that ended up lodged in my head. A lot of reviewers ding Carlile for allegedly simplistic lyrics, but simple doesn't always equal bad or dumb, and not all folkies have to be Dylan. Her words work for the kind of music she's making -- they're clear. They feel right. And the spare, understated lyrics to "That Year" just make the song that much more powerful. This is a lovely album, beautiful, catchy and nourishing.

P.S. When I originally popped this in, I totally confused this artist with Belinda Carlisle and was all, "Whoah, she really changed her sound. This doesn't sound like 'Circle In The Sand'. Oh my God, and she's gay now!" Whoops.

Standout tracks:
- Dreams
- Looking Out

RIYL: Melissa Etheridge, Indigo Girls, Dar Williams, Rachael Yamagata, other Lilith fare

x-posted to LJ & tumblr

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