By Adaeze Dikko
With 2002 single “A Thousand Miles,” Vanessa Carlton became the face of early 2000’s female pop songwriting, along with the likes of Michelle Branch and Ashlee Simpson. Even fifteen years after its release date, Carlton’s most popular single lives on in the hearts of those who grew up belting it in unison with the radio. “A Thousand Miles” remains a road-trip playlist staple; the catchy lyrics are often heard being sung aggressively out the window of a car packed with friends, with all the overly-emphasized dance moves to match. The unforgettable piano intro garners an almost instinctual reaction to at least bop along to all the words, perhaps even bringing us back to the time we thought we were a piano genius because we had finally remembered the iconic chords well enough to show off. Ironically, we are as close to “A Thousand Miles” as ever; its impact permeates pop culture to this day. Carlton’s song never left the spotlight, but what about the woman behind the piano pop hit?
Despite her lack of recent attention, Vanessa Carlton is no one-hit-wonder, having put out four albums since Be Not Nobody. Carlton’s latest album, Liberman, (2015) is a fresh change from her debut album, yet manages to recapture the youthfulness that made “A Thousand Miles” resonate with so many people. Liberman is the cool, older sister of Be Not Nobody, resorting to a more intimate, folky take on the typical voice of early 21st century pop. While her new album does not carry any uber-popular hits, singles like “Blue Pool” and “Something Where Nothing Used to Be” are perfect examples of catchy choruses with a soft rock-leaning musical backdrop. While Carlton’s intent with Liberman was certainly not to charm mainstream audiences, the distinctly muted piano accompaniments in songs like “Willow” act as a throwback to Vanessa’s beginnings while exploring a new level of authenticity and rawness unique to this album.
While Liberman probably won’t make it on you beach vacation playlist, the album’s consistency can grow on even the most skeptical listeners and might be better appreciated as the soundtrack for your next spontaneous adventure through nature.