Review Summary: It’s not the kind of pop you hear on the radio but it’s the kind you wish you did.
Poor Vanessa. After 2002 and “A Thousand Miles” came and went, so did her contribution to the world of popular music. While her legacy through that song lives on through White Chicks DVDs and “making my way downtown” tumblr memes, it must frustrate her to know that almost a decade later she is releasing her best music and receiving little recognition for it. Rabbits On The Run is a fantastic album top to bottom by a continually maturing artist that has already found, and is now merely perfecting, her voice.
The album, upon first and repeated listens, evokes a fantastical dream-like experience – a grand yet never over-the-top journey, perfectly balanced between bleak and jovial. When Vanessa says the album title’s mention of rabbits is a symbol for ‘time slipping’ and ‘mind floating’ it all makes sense. From the bubbly opening piano riff of “Carousel” to the final murky moments of “In The End” it all feels so ethereal, maybe even too much so, as the 10 songs float like dandelion seeds and it initially seems almost impossible to grasp them. To understand this album on a down-to-earth level requires repeat listens.
At its dreamiest, the album is also the most solemn, as tracks like “Hear The Bells” and “The Marching Line” use chant-like vocals and expertly sorrowful piano playing to evoke near-cinematic soundscapes. Vanessa asks, “Do you know love like a bullet in the chest?” This is just before “In The End”, which brings to mind a funeral with its heavy reverb, dark cello line and Gregorian-esque chanting. If this is her singing after taking a bullet then I believe her; this could be the soundtrack to one ascending from their body.
If that all sounds a tad grim, don’t worry, there’s moments of pure pop that, while sure to invite comparisons to contemporaries Sara Bareilles and Regina Spektor, are distinctively Vanessa. The piano is traded in for a guitar on “Dear California” and the drums are featured in “Tall Tales For Spring” – these tracks are a welcome slice of festivity in the middle of the album. It’s not the kind of pop you hear on the radio but it’s the kind you wish you did.
In 2002 Vanessa asked, “Do you think time would pass us by?” Over its 10 songs, Rabbits On The Run weaves through reality and dreams to ultimately find the answer: a heartbreakingly beautiful ‘yes’.