Carlton’s harmonies prove she’s no nobody

Adam Griffiths

There aren’t many artists left who know who they are. Maybe this explains the label hopping that’s popular of late and the emergence of countless imprints that seem crafted specifically to give artists launching pads to work their way up to the attention of the big leagues.

After leaving A&M in 2005, Vanessa Carlton became a recluse. She moved to NoLita, the neighborhood area in Manhattan just north of Little Italy, and spent most of this time shacked up with then boyfriend Stephen Jenkins.

They broke up.

But not before the duo started work on Carlton’s third studio release, Heroes and Thieves, which may be the album she’s been trying to make all along.

It’s no revolution. It’s simply an artist realizing the full potential of her musical and lyrical gamut. Sure, it may be one of the best pop CDs to come out this year, but reducing Carlton to the likes of Hilary Duff and Aly & AJ is nothing short of offensive.

Heroes and Thieves is a raw self-portrait. Carlton masters mixing her powerful keyboards with orchestral string arrangements to deliver sweeping anthems. Songs like “Hands on Me” and “My Best” build softly into testaments of her fresh independence. Her bold courage is yet another rarity in the industry today. The sheer creative sincerity Carlton commands this time around is a throwback to the Carly Simons and Joan Baezs of the latter half of the last century.

On “The One,” which is testimony to the right boy gone wrong, Carlton’s innocent voice is juxtaposed against Stevie Nicks’, and the result is a timeless ballad – “Now you look at me and see what I’ve known for so long / Sad that you could be so lovely and so wrong / Came to say that I moved, I see your face you don’t approve / Guess you could say I’m already gone.”

As the album draws to close, her music ruminates with wisdom and maturity beyond her 27 years. Both “Home” and “More Than This” serve Carlton at her core. As “Home” draws to a quiet lull, keystrokes trickle, and we’re left with one of her trademark piano solos.

“More Than This” comes off sing-songy but surprises with ironic vocal twists and contrasting arrangements that convey the bitterness, but yet the validity, of the lyrics. “Let’s make this our story,” she sings. “Let’s live in this glory / Time it fades away as a song / cause someday we’ll be gone.”

As far as she’s made it, those thousand miles that made her so famous seemed to echo in every dwindling piano rife. Carlton maintains the frivolity that makes each chord memorable, the sexiness that laces each story she tells and the distinction her music has garnered.

“Soldiers and heroes come home,” she sings in “More Than This.” “And they carry a song”- the one Carlton’s finally sharing with the world.

Contact assistant all editor Adam Griffiths at [email protected].