Brandi Carlile – Give Up the Ghost

January 01, 1970



Brandi Carlile has made a rapid ascent along that upward
path to stardom, nudged along by a rabid fan base, a supportive record label and
a sound that wavers between rock ‘n’ roll resolve and pure pop agility.  It’s an ideal formula, but a formula
nevertheless, one that offers the impression she’s conveying genuine gravitas
when, in fact, she’s merely adhering to a standard pop M.O.


Carlile is clearly a master when it comes to parlaying
earnest anthems illuminating love, longing and soul searching, but on this, her
third album, she offers the impression she’s concocted sentiment simply to
serve the material.  While songs such as
“Looking Out,” “Dying Day,” “Dreams” and “That Year” are immediately engaging
and endowed with driving melodies, catchy choruses and enough hooks that arm a
fleet of fishing trawlers, once the final notes fade away, the emotional
imprint doesn’t linger much longer.  Likewise,
the staged, stony-faced photos that adorn the jacket only add to the sense that
Carlile is intent on milking the melodrama.


Granted, this may be nitpicking.  Pop music is often, after all, an artificial
edifice that allows an artist to manipulate a feeling, excise an inner demon or
posture convincingly, often as a substitute for real substance.  But given her obvious talent and that of her
capable crew, she’s created the impression she’s capable of something more than
self-indulgent hand wringing or becoming a Stevie Nicks wannabe.  No wonder then, that the best song of the
set, “Caroline” (featuring some unusually nimble keyboard work from Elton John)
makes its mark because its upbeat attitude isn’t mired in artifice. So while it
may be the product of a well-heeled pop practitioner, Give Up the Ghost isn’t quite strong enough to actually move the


“Looking Out,” “Caroline” LEE ZIMMERMAN


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