Release Date: Oct 23, 2015
Record label: Dine Alone
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Adult Alternative Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Contemporary Singer/Songwriter
The primary influence for her new album, Vanessa Carlton has said, is an oil painting by her grandfather Alan J. Lee, who was originally named Liberman. The painting shows three young women in various stages of undress, faces averted and looking down. Carlton wrote many of the songs while viewing the painting — eventually deciding to name the album after her grandfather — but her inspiration was less the subject matter than the medium.
Continuing with the austere sincerity she carved out on 2011's Rabbits on the Run, Vanessa Carlton nevertheless opens up a bit on 2015's Liberman, an album named after her grandfather and written in the years after the singer/songwriter married and started a family. Carlton doesn't directly reference her lineage anywhere on Liberman, but with its ghostly music box pianos, electronic watercolors, staccato strings, and elliptical melodies, the album feels simultaneously elusive and introspective. While Carlton rarely quickens her pulse here -- at best, the record achieves a gentle simmer, never a boil -- all the slyly shifting sonics enveloping the songs give Liberman a painterly feel, a shift that comes as a welcome tonic to its predecessor.
Vanessa Carlton is one of the most tragically underappreciated singer-songwriters of the early 21st century. We have all heard her early aughts mega hit “A Thousand Miles” while shopping for toothpaste at the grocery store, or while waiting in doctor’s offices, but her post “A Thousand Miles” output has not reached nearly as many people as it deserves to. While her debut album Be Not Nobody is a perfectly pleasant, if grammatically confusing, piece of pop music, her sophomore follow up Harmonium showed Carlton really finding her own sound and embracing her gifts as a songwriter.
Poptimism is, overall, a force of good. There’s something difficult to understand and even more challenging to explain about simplicity being done right, which is why students blurt, “I could have done that” comments after seeing Rothko or Pollock paintings for the first time. Cutting musicians short of the praise they deserve for making the delectable so easy to swallow is cheap.
Let's get "A Thousand Miles" out of the way. Fourteen years ago, Vanessa Carlton made a very popular song that will follow her around forever. Fair enough; it's very catchy. But times have changed. Can't Vanessa? She recently told CBS News that she "learned a lot" since her debut album, "which is ….
If Vanessa Carlton spent a thousand years at the piano, she probably wouldn't come up with another "A Thousand Miles." Her 2002 debut single, which brought a touch of classical to the TRL crowd with its piano and string splendor, is turning out to be one of those once-in-a-career songs. Thirteen years later, it's still her only real hit. Certainly, there's nothing on Carlton's fifth album that approaches it; the closest she comes is on "Nothing Where Something Used to Be," a bittersweet breakup song ("I didn't say, but I was sad to see you go/You went back to the ghost, I went back to what I know") that comes wrapped in sweeping, Coldplay-ish lushness.
Vanessa’s Carlton’s fifth record is another step in her decade-long evolution from polished pop star to introspective indie auteur. These 10 intimate songs, which track life’s little complexities and the quest for happiness, coalesce into a smartly revealing song suite. At times Carlton’s vocals are layered for dreamlike harmonies, and the reverb-heavy production mirrors the lyrics’ emotional turmoil.