Brandi Carlile, Give Up the Ghost (Columbia, 2009)

Brandi Carlile made a quick, favorable first impression when her self-titled debut CD came out in 2005. The combination of well-written songs, a powerful voice, and melodic yet energetic folk rock reflected a considerable amount of promise from such a young artist. Her second album The Story came out in 2007, and while it had some good songs it was still a bit disappointing; the energy level failed to match what I had seen in a great live performance the year before. Now Carlile has returned with her third album Give Up the Ghost, which matches the high quality of her debut.

As usual, the muscle is provided by Carlile's soul mates and songwriting partners, identical twins Phil and Tim Hanseroth. Carlile plays some piano in addition to guitar on this record, but the overall sound of Give Up the Ghost doesn't depart significantly from its predecessors. The lively songs dominate the album, especially the opening song "Looking Out" and the great single "Dreams." "Caroline" is also very noteworthy, not simply for being an overt expression of Carlile's sexual preference, but also for the fun sing-along chorus and the rollicking piano and backing vocal supplied by Elton John. The quieter songs are not as consistent, but "That Year" is an interesting reflection on a high school romance, and the closing song "Oh Dear" possesses some nice Beatle-ish harmonies.

(on edit: "Caroline" is actually about Brandi's niece, as a few people have pointed out. I read something about Brandi into the lyrics that, while not actually wrong (I did fact-check on that), does not apply to the song in question. I'm neither perfect nor above criticism, and while I do try to fact-check before I write reviews, it's not always easy to verify everything on severe time constraints, especially when I try to interpret song lyrics. I do appreciate that people actually read what I write and care enough to comment, and will try to hold myself to a higher standard in the future, or at least refrain from speculation that I can't back up.)

Brandi Carlile is a first-rate talent, and she and the twins have an impressive and expanding collection of good songs under their belts. Give Up the Ghost solidifies Carlile's status as one of the best performers to emerge this decade, and is definitely worth getting.

Overall grade: A-

reviewed by Scott



Renegade Pilgrim said...

Okay, if you're going to do a review of an album, maybe you should know a little about the artist. "Caroline" is about Brandi's niece and "That Year" is not about a high school romance, but about a friend who committed suicide. A simple YouTube search for these songs would have found plenty of video with the songs explanations that Brandi does when she plays these in concert.

Libby said...

A nice review, but dude, do your homework. Caroline is about her niece...something she has mentioned frequently when performing the song live.

Renegade Pilgrim said...

Do you know anything about this album? Did you do any research about the songs? Did you actually listen to the lyrics?

Newsflash: "Caroline" is about Brandi's NIECE. It has nothing to do with her "sexual preferences". "That Year" is about a friend in high school who committed suicide, not a high school romance.

It doesn't take too much skill to do a little background research on an album. All you had to do was listen to the EPK for this latest album.

Emoke Orsolya Czako said...

You really should've done a little more research before publishing this post. And how can you call The story a disappointment, when thanks to that album, and namely that song, she's known today.
And I really did like how you called the Twins her soul mates and songwriting partners, so beautifully put.

I also wrote about this album here:

Emoke Orsolya Czako said...

Oh, I also subscribed, I love reading reviews. :D