By the time the first chorus of “The Joke” hits, it’s quite clear — this is a different Brandi Carlile than we’ve heard before. Bigger, bolder, reaching for the stars both sonically and emotionally.
As NPR’s Jewly Hight puts it in a First Listen premiere of the album, “It’s the sound of an artist laying it all on the line.”
The ten track album, which is streaming in full right now at NPR Music, covers a spectrum of territory from orchestral power ballads to gang vocal rockers — to the contemplative folk that is Carlile’s bread and butter. Lyrically, she covers topics from the dulling of love, to maternal devotion, to addiction and mental health, and the ways intimacy and devotion can change and evolve.
As Hight writes, the stories spun by Carlile and her bandmates are rooted in personal experience:
During the promotional campaign leading up to By The Way, I Forgive You, the sixth studio album by Carlile and her bandmates, twin brothers Tim and Phil Hanseroth, she posted an open letter to a Baptist minister she knew in her teens. In front of her family and friends, he’d refused to perform her baptism (an essential symbol of belonging to the faith tradition) on the basis of her sexuality. “I don’t believe you did it to humiliate me,” she wrote. “I think you struggled with the decision and simply ran out of time.” She meant the note as a public display of forgiveness — not some sort of limp, passive, permissive gesture, but a deliberate, self-aware one that acknowledged how profoundly wounding the experience was for her. It foreshadowed the emotional resolve of the 10 tracks to come.Some of the songs on By The Way, I Forgive You apply humanizing empathy to the stories of people written off by society.
Click here to listen to By The Way, I Forgive You in full at NPR Music. The album is out February 16th on Low Country Sound / Elektra, and Carlile plays a sold-out show at the Merriam Theater in Philadelphia on Friday, May 18th. Below, watch a live performance of “The Joke.”
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