When all goes quiet, what do we reflect on? Do we focus on the growth we have to make, or do we spiral into darkness? Do we honor the past, or do we plan our future?
Grammy-award winning folk and americana artist Brandi Carlile’s "In These Silent Days" is a meditation on these thoughts. After the breakout success of her 2018 album "By The Way, I Forgive You," Carlile turns away from answers and focuses on the questions that develop in real-time. The pandemic gave the queer singer-songwriter much time to reflect — on family, on faith, on herself.
Much of this record feels like entries from a diary. The honest, heart-on-her-sleeve lyricism is as straightforward as it is emotional. For example, the ballad “Letter To The Past” reflects on her past while seeing herself in the experiences of her children. It’s an ode to resistance and parenthood in every respect.
Carlile’s vocal and melodic performances really carry the album. When production runs a bit boilerplate, Carlile makes up for it with extraordinary vocal control and range. Cuts like “Broken Horses” and “Throwing Good After Bad” are the best examples of her dynamics — the former being this roaring anthem to self-acceptance and queer liberation while the latter’s gentleness feels like a feather.
Speaking of production, much of the album’s soundscape pays homage to '70s folk and rock. Carlile has spoken at length about how Joni Mitchell’s 1971 record Blue was a massive influence on the project, and it really shows (see: “You and Me On The Rock”). Often, those more stripped-back, Joni-esque moments on the record are the best because they best capture what Carlile wanted to do with the album.
"In These Silent Days" excels in its vocal delivery, lyricism and homage. However, it often feels like the production is coasting in comfort. It is by no means bad — in fact, the instrumentation on the tracks blend seamlessly with the vibe, lyrics and vocals, but the lack of bold, experimental choices or distinctive sounds leave something to be desired.
Still, this album is an impressive addition to the ever-expanding tradition of americana music with many standouts cuts.
The opening track and lead single “Right on Time” centers on themes of regret and personal growth. Carlile’s vocal delivery on this track is particularly tear-jerking and raw; hands down one of the best songs to come out this year.
“Broken Horses” features a sprawling, cinematic production that truly leans into Carlile’s country roots while still staying true to her current sound. This track features some of the best lyrics on the album with the opening words, “I wear my father’s leather on the inside of my skin,” really setting the tone of this banger.
“Sinners, Saints, and Fools,” offers a cutting commentary on Christian hypocrisy. The second-to-last track also has some of the most biting, bold instrumentation on the album.
Brandi Carlile’s "In These Silent Days" is timeless and wise, and while there are moments that leave something to be desired, the sum of the whole vastly outweighs the patchy spots.
Right on Time
Sinners, Saints, and Fools