Overall Album Review
At least in my opinion, the new album has some significant differences from the previous ones. The piano instrumentals are still there and beautiful, but they're not on every song, and the entire thing is quieter and more subdued. It seems like Vanessa's been experimenting with some new sounds and instruments, and overall I'm pleased with the result. I did miss some elements of her old sound and didn't think her voice was as strong in some places, but I think the album has the same fundamental Vanessa Carlton sound, and a few of the songs are some of her best yet.
Individual Song Reviews
This was the first single released from the album - it came out back in May - and I absolutely love it. It might be my favorite song on the entire album. The piano is amazing and blends nicely with the other instruments without being overwhelmed. This was the first time I'd heard the children's choir that Vanessa featured on some of her songs, and I think it worked well here. I love the lyrics, too.
2. "I Don't Want to Be a Bride"
I've been listening to a live version of this song on YouTube for awhile, and it's something I feel like I can relate to - sometimes, the idea of a white-picket-fence life really doesn't appeal to me. I was anxious to hear the album version to see how it differed, and I have mixed feelings. I like the additional instruments and don't mind the minor changes to the lyrics - they still create a beautiful image. I also especially love the new sounds (instruments and background vocals) after the second chorus. However, one thing I was really disappointed in was the children's choir on the ending. As far as the lyrics go, it's my favorite part of the song, and while the children's choir sounds nice, it sort of drowns out everything else and I thought Vanessa's voice was much stronger on it's own, at least to deliver these last few lines.
This is a very delicate and pretty song, and I like it a lot - it's probably my second or third favorite from this album. Though the piano isn't prominent at first, there's a beautiful instrumental towards the ends, and I love the violins that come right before it. The lyrics, too, are beautiful, and very metaphoric - I love the thought of a "knife-throwing kind of love".
4. "Fairweather Friends"
I thought this one sounded a bit more like her previous albums - it was more intense than some of the other songs. The piano might be my favorite piano-from-a-Vanessa-Carlton-song ever, and it's definitely going on my list of songs I want to learn to play. The lyrics are very strong and poignant, but still show a vulnerable side. I love the idea of "magical thinking" - she explained it in a show as being the idea that you can only deal with so much reality at a time. I also love the first verse - "some other girl in your spellcasting plans for a life" - and the piano/violin instrumental in the middle is to die for. (Those are two of my favorite instruments, and I love hearing them together.)
5. "Hear The Bells"
It's a quiet and subdued song, with haunting lyrics. I don't have a very strong opinion about it; while I don't dislike it, I'm not sure if I love it. The music is very soft, like the rest of the song, so it doesn't stand out much, but it's nice towards the end. I did like the bridge, but was unsure about the verses.
6. "Dear California"
This one is VERY different from her usual sound. I wasn't thrilled about the first verse, where she mentioned being "out on the roof sneaking a cigarette" because - well, smoking seems utterly pointless to me, but it also didn't seem to fit with my usual expectation of fantasy piano-pop - but we already knew this album was different, so I guess that's just my personal opinion. Otherwise, the song is very free-spirited, which I liked - though it didn't sound like Nolita Fairytale, I could see how she might have the same mentality while writing both. There was another great metaphor in this song - "like a paper cut to the heart".
7. "Tall Tales for Spring"
I'm going to start by saying that I don't like the first verse. By including "God rests His head Sunday afternoon" "The wicked in me is surely wicked in you" and "I pray to a ghost that we'd never met", I'm sort of confused about what the meaning of this song is and whether it's something I'm comfortable with. I did like the second verse, which included a Stephen Hawking reference and the phrase "Our minds hold the chaos that started everything." "Madness of the heart" in the chorus is another great phrase. While I'm unsure about the electric guitar mixed in with the piano instrumentals, I did think the song ended strongly, switching from "Madness of the heart" to "Madness in the stars." There was a very chaotic fantasy feel to the whole thing.
8. "Get Good"
I liked this song much more than I expected I would. It fits more into the pop/folk genre, which I find interesting - in a good way. I liked the descriptions and the first verse about "have you lost your constellation eyes?" The meaning is really sweet and encouraging, and though I did miss the piano, I'm okay with the guitar that replaced it.
9. "The Marching Line"
This might top "Carousel" as my favorite song from this album. The song reminds me of the aftermath of a storm on the ocean - especially the lyrics about "ships on gray seas." The the last verse and the instrumental is absolutely gorgeous; the piano chords are wonderful throughout and build up nicely towards the end. I was unsure about the ending, thinking it might have been better to end it before the line about "fortune tellers", but it's beginning to grow on me.
10. "In The End"
This song was very dark; the lyrics were unclear and hard to understand. While the music starts of nice, I though the overall song was a bit of a letdown, and didn't think it was a strong ending to the album. "The Marching Line" would have done better as the last song, I think.
So while it wasn't what I was expected, I am happy with this album.
Off to download some more songs,