Music News

Vanessa Carlton

Like other teeny-poppers from the Class of 2002, Carlton faces the challenge of building a lasting career on the flimsiest foundation imaginable: adolescent loyalty. The growing maturity of her music will serve her well in the long run, but it's apt to cause a short-term career challenge.

The Harmonium arrangements conceived by Carlton and producer/paramour Stephan Jenkins, of Third Eye Blind fame, are lush and dramatic -- cascading chords, stirring choruses and swelling strings from the Paul Buckmaster school. This approach doesn't entirely compensate for those moments when Carlton acts her age from a lyrical standpoint -- e.g., "You say we're too young/But maybe you're too old to remember," from "Who's to Say." Yet they give the album as a whole a sonic cohesion that, from a distance, could almost be mistaken for gravitas.

Unfortunately, adults might not fully appreciate the hookiness of the appealing "Private Radio," while middle-schoolers weaned on the Simpson sisters may be baffled by the contrapuntal solo at the heart of "Half a Week Before Winter." Carlton is racing ahead of her audience, but in a sense, she's still a tween.

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts