Blue Pool: Vanessa Carlton’s Piano and Adult-Oriented Sound

Blue Pool, Vanessa Carlton. Dine Alone Records, 2015. Blue Pool, Vanessa Carlton. Dine Alone Records, 2015.

If like me, you’ve always had a thing for singers who accompany themselves on the piano or write their own songs, well with Vanessa Carlton, you are well served, because she does both.

Those who are fans of Avril Lavigne’s past work will also like this. She and Carlton both broke through in 2001, and quickly went from being pop rock newcomers to being big in the industry. Carlton eventually went more indie, and is now presenting us with more mature a sound in Blue Pool.

For a four-track EP, I feel like at least one of its songs should stand out more than the rest. I found however that the lyrics seem to have been thought through a little more than the music. All four songs of Blue Pool seem to converge in its second track, of the same title as the album. Carlton’s voice, for some reason, sounds quite different in it and reminds us of time that passes and broken bridges. The message in “Blue Pool” is powerful in the sense that it stirs up specific emotions and hits where it hurts and where we like to hurt, especially in the chorus, “Cause the garden walls grew quick / Before you know, you’re outside of it.”

“Take It Easy” is the most catchy one and does justice to a voice that’s soothing and pleasing to the ear, although not so unusual. The piano and guitar steel make for a very sophisticated sound and the electronic feel is definitely a plus. The strumming path and chord progression don’t need more variation than the one Carlton’s quality of voice provide the song with, for she skillfully hits high notes in a way that’s effortless, pure and aesthetically balanced.

The beat may be a little repetitive but the piano key chain is executed in such a way that the overall production doesn’t feel so redundant, since very quickly, we find ourselves drawn into its pace and her angel-like voice although not high-pitched nor too low, imbued with the spirit of the track and the need to listen to it in loop.

Marked with lyrical maturity and mysterious sensuality, the whole album is made of sounds that would be very fitting as part of the soundtrack of a brilliant modern dark drama series about real complex women of our time, which fortunately has become a thing. I say this without any intention of patronizing or narrowing the scope of her music, but rather because her superior sensibility along with her ability with words, struck me as feline cleverness, which I appreciate in music as I would in any other human art.

I love how sufficient the piano is in “Nothing Where Something Used to Be,” as it is played or rather “pounded on” in a playful and nervous manner. Carlton’s confident voice hitting notes that are comfortable to reach and totally within her range, combined with the solid instrumental arrangement, make for a very decent production.

The piano arrangement in the intro of “Operator” sounds promising but the overall production here is rather depressing and predictable. However, the album’s mood keeps shifting slightly, from emo, to thoughtful, to dreamy.

The EP was released via Dine Alone Records on July 24

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