Vanessa Carlton
Harmonium


4.0
excellent

Review

by Ryou-Neko USER (6 Reviews)
November 8th, 2005 | 14 replies


Release Date: 2004 | Tracklist


Remember the pop princess who had a hit with the songs "A Thousand Miles," "Ordinary Day," and "Pretty Baby"" Well, this is her, except more mature, more gothic, and just plain better.

Vanessa Carlton is one of the few artists today who can sell modestly well without the help of a hit single. She released Harmonium in 2004 to almost no airplay (for the single "White Houses") and huge fan support. The album has sold around 200,000 copies, which would be a huge deal for any indie label. Poor Vanessa was the victim of her record label's stupidity, but remains to be a favorite to all of her fans.

The album starts off with the only single, "White Houses" (4/5). This song is a standard pop single, one that makes you want to buy the cd. The rest of the cd is the opposite, but anyway, it starts out with a basic piano riff, if you can call it that, that escalates into a powerful chorus that eventually fades off. Vanessa has mastered the technique of using her piano as part of the melody and the harmony of the song; she uses several lines of music similar to what a bass guitar would play if there was one. "White Houses" continues on with some relatively quiet playing by Lindsay Buckingham, and then it ends. Now we get into the real music.

Next comes "Who to Say" (3/5) and "Annie" (5/5). "Who's to Say" is pretty much like "White Houses", except in a ballad-y version, so I'm not going to bother reviewing that song, but "Annie" is totally different. "Annie" is pretty much a song about some dying girl that Vanessa has relations to; it's one of the most emotional songs on the disc, just because of her vocals - they reflect her emotions of sorrow and longing very well, without overdoing it.

"San Francisco" (4/5) is a homecoming song set in...well, San Francisco. "Love is dancing on my finger / you got to the heart of the matter and lingered." This is one of Vanessa's more personal song, and contains some of her most interesting orchestral arrangements.

The next song, "Afterglow" (2/5) is perhaps the only boring song on this disc. It's a piano ballad with an occasional outburst of strings, covered softly by Vanessa's voice, but it lulls you to sleep. It gets boring, even though it's one of the shortest songs on Harmonium. But do not fear, my child, Vanessa saved the best for last.

"Private Radio" (5/5) was originally going to be released as the first single off of the album, but alas Vanessa's evil label executives denied the world this priveledge. This song is simply amazing, and could have saved her album from bombing like it did. "Private Radio" sucessfully layers many digital sound effects through Vanessa's voice and piano skills. It's one of the more upbeat songs on the album, giving us a break from the ballads "Who's to Say" and "Afterglow".

Many artists use interesting techniques with vocal sounds in their music, and Vanessa manages to accomplish this at the beginning of "Half a Week Before the Winter" (5/5). It starts off with the title line, but it sounds like the song is going to be in a minor key until she says "winter". From then, the song advances into a chilling performance that engulfs you in it's simplistic brilliance.

"C'est la Vie," (5/5) the often used french phrase, is an interesting display of Vanessa's melodic skills - she uses a catchy and successful rhodes riff to set the style for the rest of the song - sheer depression. "C'est la Vie" possibly best shows Vanessa's skills at creating catchy riffs and melodies; and she does it often.

Moving along. "Papa" (5/5) is one of the two songs on "Harmonium" to be nothing but Vanessa's vocals and piano playing. Her rhythm and her playing style create a jazzy effect that enlightens the otherwise dark melody. This creates a weird effect, because her lyrics are rather depressing. "I should have known by the ice in his eye / but you warmed me up with your so sweet demise / nestled in your calculated moonshine".

The last non-bonus track on the album, "She Floats" (3/5) is a ballad pierced by literal screams that are a bit surprising if you're listening to the disc for the first time. The slow, cautious piano somewhat enhances Vanessa's use of voice timbre; this is one of the best vocal performances on the album. But the track's sheer length and the fact that it is a ballad takes away from this; it makes the song rather boring after a few minutes.

Finally, we come to the bonus song that is good enough to be a normal one; "The Wreckage" (5/5) is a suicidal piano-only at times ballad, at times fast, song. The piano effectively transfers moods as Vanessa's voice and lyrics do. "Speeding / Into the horizon / Dreaming of the sirens / Wishing for her broken glass on the highway / It could be so easy" is layered with a slow piano part, and then as her voice crescendoes, so does the emotion in the lyrics. "Flying / Flying in slow motion / Wind through my hair / And ripping through the scene thatís made of the wreckage / It is my secret."

This album contains some of the best-made music I've ever heard. And if you don't feel like listening to it, good for you, because you're missing out.



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user ratings (38)
Chart.
3.6
great


Comments:Add a Comment 
Thor
November 8th 2005


10268 Comments


I don't think that Vanessa Carlton has made anything deserving of a classic rating.

Digging: Daughters - You Won't Get What You Want

Electric City
Emeritus
November 8th 2005


15762 Comments


I agree with Thor. Vanessa Carlton is worth a spin, but please, 5 stars is waaaaayyyyy too much.

Damrod
Moderator
November 8th 2005


1093 Comments


Yeah, I have to agree. This has a slight fanboy-touch. Can you do something about that? Otherwise I would have to do something about it.

Ryou-Neko
November 8th 2005


48 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Sorry, but it's true. I agree. Twas a bit overindulgent on coffee.

Med57
Moderator
November 8th 2005


1002 Comments


Not a bad review. I can't stand Vanessa Carlton, personally...her music really doesn't hold any interest for me and is pretty mediocre within her genre in my opinion, but a lot of people seem to really like her stuff. She's definitely improved since her debut though.

Ryou-Neko
November 12th 2005


48 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Hmm...I really liked this cd. But I lost it and now I'm sad.

superfascist
March 12th 2006


118 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

This is one of my favorite albums. I was kind of skeptical about it at first, since it was something my mom liked, and usually she likes to listen to crap, but I finally gave it a try (or actually, I had no choice, since she played it in her car all the time), and it really grew on me.



Good review, though I think "Afterglow" is a good song. My least favorite on the album is "Who's to Say", which sounds a lot like something off "Be Not Nobody". My favorite tracks are probably "Annie" and "C'est la Vie".

Honeymoon_Croon
April 8th 2006


297 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

I didn't like this CD when I first heard it. I thought the first few songs weren't very strong, so I gave up on it. I personally think the better songs were twoards the end. I liked "Be Not Nobody" alot better.This Message Edited On 04.08.06

CushMG15
September 30th 2006


1810 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

After actually sitting down and listening to this, it is a beautiful cd. There are some real gems on here.

samthebassman
May 8th 2007


2164 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Ok review, a surprisingly good album, quite beautiful in parts.

frozenocean99
August 14th 2009


39 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

what i would kill for one night with this woman

Dunpeal
December 17th 2013


4175 Comments


yea, would def bone. and dayum that band pic

Feather
November 10th 2015


4999 Comments


Just saw her live tonight and honestly she was great live. Disappointed to see her newest album has no ratings, but I can't say I'm at all surprised.



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