Album Reviews: Harmonium by Vanessa CarltonVanessa Carlton’s second long player picks up right where her 2002 debut, Be Not Nobody, left off, both musically and lyrically. If her first album found her to be a notably gifted songwriter and piano player, as well as an emotive singer and incisive young-adult lyricist, Harmonium reasserts those strengths.
A set of tuneful, adult-oriented alternative rock songs makes this album a welcome addition for fans and a fine introduction for newcomers interested in a youthful take on complex themes both lyrical and musical. Her spark has by now attracted a few high profile contributors, including Lindsey Buckingham, who plays guitar on “White Houses,” the album’s first single, and Pharrell Williams, who offers backup vocals on “Who’s To Say.”
While no great stylistic shift has occurred in Carlton’s songwriting between the release of Be Not Nobody and this album, her songwriting has grown considerably. Carlton’s dramatic vocal flourishes, often accompanied by solo piano, are less severe this time around, as her voice and delivery have filled out. She has also grown into the role of young adult, shedding much of the precociousness of her first album. While her vocal range is somewhat limited, she’s a gifted piano player and has a fine sense of melody, and she utilizes the tools she possesses to great effect. Almost as if to shuck the expectations of her popular audience, these songs get less immediately radio friendly and more complex as Harmonium moves along and further way from the lead single, providing an ultimately more rewarding listen than you might expect from such a young talent. - Cory O'Malley
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