Thirteen years, four albums and the start of a new family later, Vanessa Carlton released her latest album, “Liberman,” on Oct. 23. Leaving the pop feel of hits “A Thousand Miles” and “Ordinary Day” leagues behind her, Carlton creates honest tracks with airy vocals and a dreamy ambiance that forms her trademark style.
“Liberman,” above all else, represents Carlton’s maturity and growth as an artist. Dominated by poetic lyrics dripping with wisdom, her strengths as a songwriter shine with lines such as, “And he walks home in another city/ Your mind’s stuck in an ancient war/ And all you need is the space for the beauty to take you.” Carlton’s stories feel like fairy tales, urging listeners to think as they are shrouded in imagery, mystery and cleverness: “Find a love/ Go build a cabin/ Find land and a tree/ Carve in a wish/ On your knees, planting seeds/ The dirt, makin’ rows, where the devil don’t see.”
With “Liberman” created in honor of her grandfather, a painter, inspirations of swirling colors and soft features from his work translate from canvas to album seamlessly. Carlton weaves together reverberating echoes, strong and confident melodies, and whimsical instrumentals that make “Liberman” far more poignant than any of her previous works. The vocals tie the piece together and prove to be Carlton’s greatest strength on the album — something not true for any of her previous works. She has a much better handle on her voice and uses it as another instrument rather than just sounds laid over a piano.
A clear progression in style is present between her debut album and today — even since her previous album, “Rabbits on the Run.” Her work has become more sophisticated and signature, as Carlton stamps her sanguine identity onto every piece she composes. It is this sense of assurance that makes “Liberman” her strongest work yet. Carlton finally has an understanding of who she is as an artist and is able to craft music not only for herself but for her audience as well. The tracks are intimate and personal, specific to her new life as a spouse and moving to Nashville, Tennessee, yet they are easily relatable to any listener. The malleability and applicable nature of the songs is something Carlton excels in in all of her pieces, and her present work still reinforces this notion.
“Liberman” highlights Carlton’s progression as a singer-songwriter: no longer conventional, no longer dismal. She is sure, bold and elegant. Carlton has created work at her pique, showing no signs of descent in sight.