Vanessa Carlton’s still got it

Courtesy of Dine Alone Records.
Courtesy of Dine Alone Records.

Ask your sister, best friend or the kid you just met in geology lab if they have heard of Vanessa Carlton. I am willing to put my money on it that they have, but may only recognize her through her greatest commercial success, “A Thousand Miles,” after it was intertwined into a movie-long comedic joke in the Wayans brothers’ 2003 movie “White Chicks.” Now in 2015, Carlton’s latest album, “Liberman,” brings forth a clear demonstration of how she has separated herself from the common sounds of popular artists in the music industry through her composition of smoothly distinguishable melodies and devising a unique musical aurora fabricated by her vocals and piano-heavy style.

Carlton has traveled a long way since the release of her 2002 debut album “Be Not Nobody.” Failure to comply with the ever-changing style of common pop music quickly helped her fall off the radar to swarms of her previous listeners.

“Liberman” chases Carlton’s continuous theme of illustrating each dynamic new chapter of her personal life through a series of breezy and dreamy verses accompanied with colorful, animated piano chords. In her vivacious fifth studio project, Carlton has returned with a long overdue album in order to offer up her warm heart and soul.

A steady beat accompanied with misty piano tunes summon an effervescent mood that deposits us into the first song on the album “Take it Easy,” and straight into Carlton’s mind. As the melody continues, it resonates and her gentle vocals begin to flurry softly into the song.

Without listening closely to each belted out lyric, it is easy for Carlton’s tracks to sound monotonous and indistinguishable from the others. Careful apprehension exhibits the deeper and gentle layers of the haunting lyrical composition. A careful ear is key to truly understanding the meaningful and sentimental words that she has so precisely chosen. Throughout the series of tracks, violin arcos and guitar strums make fleeting, yet powerful appearances.

The distinguished track “Operator” sets itself apart as one of the album’s highlights. “Guns ain’t just for boys / I heard what you said / You should say it again, cause it’s bold.” A film noir style mood, catchy lyrics and a sorrowful tune work together to sweep the listener into the song and hand them a sense of empowerment.

 “Blue Pool” welcomes listeners in with a “Hedwig’s Theme”-style track. It starts off feebly and continues with a climb into the glowing first verse “Man, it’s so nice to you see you again / You’re the great blue pool in LA.” Throughout the course of the song, Carlton recognizes the beautiful memories as she glimpses into a past friendship.

Finally, “Ascension” presents us with a slow and mellow, but proper sendoff, similar to a balloon being released and sent off to float toward the heavens. “The sky is no separate light / And we watch every day of our life / And we grow.” A scarce handful of words are neatly tossed in and a substantial focus is situated on the closing musical notations and into the dissolution of the 10-track register.

While the springy and emotive choruses work together to paint their own special sound, “Liberman” seems to parallel the similar angelical and mystical verses heard through her last album, “Rabbits on the Run,” perhaps a little too closely. Carlton appears to do an outstanding job of drawing a distinct line between herself and other female artists, but fails to do so with her past works.

 In retrospect, this work collectively activates a dreamlike state of mind with each musical stroke that properly reflects Carlton’s artistical genius. Much of her work remains widely unrecognized and underappreciated and this one may follow suit as well.

Although this probably will not be the album to resurface her mainstream music career, listeners willing to give her off-the-radar tunes a chance, and seeking a unique solace, may still experience it as being quite palatable.

Rating: 3.5 stars

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