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Vanessa Carlton – Blue Pool


Boldly continuing her artistic reinvention Vanessa Carlton has allowed new influences to seep into her contemplative piano pop. “Blue Pool” holds the middleground between her introspective direction of the last two albums, with a more profound Tori Amos influence. “Blue Pool”, and its companion album, have stronger links with Carlton’s pre-“Be Not Nobody” demo recordings than of her other major label albums. The dreamier aspects of “Blue Pool” are reminiscent of the first two Florence + the Machine albums.

“Blue Pool” is the first batch of new material since “Rabbits On the Run”, and it is meant as a precursor to a new album called “Liberman”. The EP largely follows the direction of the preceding album but the material is stronger all around. Carlton feels more comfortable in her new direction, and the songs reflect that confidence. In the years post-"Harmonium" years anessa had been steadily shedding most of her overt pop trappings in favor of a contemporary return to what she did on her demos. Carlton’s current direction is focused around the same kind of minimalism, introspective atmosphere and absence of ear worm pop hooks.


No longer restricted by commercial considerations Vanessa is now writing music that plays up to her strengths. The absence of any notable pop hooks allows her to further explore her low register vocals that always were superior to her often nasally high register. Having forgone hooks in favor for more resonating material the tracks on “Blue Pool” are more languid and pensive than anything on “Rabbits On the Run”. Some will probably decry the lack of instantly recognizable hooks and the inclusion of folk melodies instead of regular pop ones. In drawing from a variety of influences, and taking her music back to its roots, Carlton now sounds more confident than ever. The minimalist arrangements of her demo songs were lost as the production values of her early albums increased.

Vanessa underwent a similar artistic evolution as her contemporary Michelle Branch. Both started out as bright-eyed pop stars that appealed across demographics. Branch would cut two light pop albums before breaking with the industry that forced her into directions that weren’t her own. Branch eventually briefly reinvented herself as an alternative country singer. Carlton on her part reconnected with the Tori Amos influenced direction of her demos to shape the sound of her future. “Blue Pool” fuses Carlton’s past with a dreamlike direction wherein her future may very well lie.

By adopting light electronics and infusing her piano-pop with ethereal soundscapes Vanessa now simultaneously sounds vintage and contemporary. Some of the electronics wouldn’t feel out of place on a Casey K. or Polaris Rose effort. The dreamier, ethereal aspects recall the first two records of Florence + the Machine. The basis for the songs is still Vanessa’s voice and her stellar piano playing. No longer bound by big label pressure, and producing her own releases, Carlton has liberated herself from the pangs of commercialism. “Blue Pool” is the realization of a sound debuted one album prior. It is the completion of the transformation that “Rabbits On the Run” merely hinted at.

Like “Rabbits On the Run” before it the “Blue Pool” EP was recorded at Real World Studios in Wiltshire, England with Steve Osborne producing. As with any of Carlton’s self-produced efforts the production work is stellar. Even though her albums have lost some of the gloss of her A&M and The Inc. output Carlton’s voice, both literal and artistic, has never resounded clearer through out her work. On “Blue Pool” Vanessa is comfortable with the direction she has chosen for herself. While she might not have graced the world with another ‘A Thousand Miles’, or even a 'White Houses' she’s now closer to the direction of her demos than she ever was before.

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