Vanessa Carlton first rose to fame as a part of the rise of precocious young singer-songwriters early last decade with “A Thousand Miles.” After the disappointing sales of her second album (Harmonium), the letdown of her third (Heroes & Thieves) and several record label moves, she left the minds of most listeners (except for maybe fans of the movie “White Chicks”). But Carlton continues to make music and is releasing her first album in four years, Rabbits on the Run.
It’s a surprisingly self-assured, mature album compared to her previous releases. Her diary ruminations have become fleshed-out lyrics. Her high, girl-like voice has become heavier and stronger.
With an echoing piano and a choir providing harmonies, “I Don’t Want to Be a Bride” captures a woman fully independent who really doesn’t need a ring on it. Carlton says in an almost deadpan tone, “But I don’t wanna wear white/We both know it’s too late for that.” “Carousel” dazzles with a piano melody reminiscent of a lullaby and triumphant lyrics about moving on.
Inspired by Stephen Hawking and Richard Adams, many of the songs have a fantastic quality. The hypnotic “Hear the Bells” evokes an “Alice In Wonderland” world (“Want the stairs on the third floor/Now I’m asking a witch doctor but the witch doctor won’t tell”) as the cymbals hit like the hands of a clock. She sings about an army in a ship from a bygone era and ends up with a poignant narrative about her existence (“You don’t know what love is like; a bullet in the chest/And I never say yes”).
At times, the production becomes overpowering. The drums and the guitars take hold of “Tall Tales for Spring” and never lets the dynamism of the song shine through. Nonetheless, Rabbits on the Run is evidence of an artist just beginning to come into her own.