By Nick Erickson, Staff writer
Just three months after releasing her debut live album, ‘Liberman Live’, Vanessa Carlton dropped a new EP, “Earlier Things Live.” The Pennsylvanian pop rock star focuses on revitalizing the highlights of her older discography, and she sounds as pure as ever in this album.
Rarely utilizing more than her emotive voice, a piano and a violin, Carlton’s stripped-down approach to her hits of the last decade is captivating. Opening with “Carousel,” originally from 2011’s “Rabbits on the Run,” the song might be a live recording, but it sounds as polished as the original. Over ascending piano runs, Carlton’s smooth voice assures listeners that a broken heart is not forever. “Love comes back around again. It’s a carousel, my friend.”
With the acoustic version of what is arguably her most popular track, Carlton breathes new life into 2002’s “A Thousand Miles.”
The famous introductory piano riff and staccato strings aid in bringing out the passion in Carlton’s croon. It is here where the delicate bowing of the featured violin works its magic, stealing the show toward the bridge of the track. The somber Rhodes and string duet that opens “White Houses” packs a melancholic punch as Carlton pours her heart out over her piano. “Hear the Bells” an incorporation of odd, clunking bells mimicking the piano melodies and is hauntingly beautiful. Carlton’s high falsetto over her piano solo bridge makes for a tearjerker.
Featuring her husband and Deer Tick frontman, John McCauley,” “In Our Time” gives the EP a notable country twang, without losing the flow of the previous tracks. Marking the first appearance of an acoustic guitar, its bouncy melody carries McCauley and Carlton as they trade off lines in the song. Ending the track with a whistle melody, this track is by far the standout of the album because of its shift from piano-pop to country ballad.
Concluding the album with a return to piano chords and violin stabs, “Marching Line,” seems to gradually crescendo as Carlton sings of moving past regret. “It’s time to join the marching line, leave it all behind,” she sings as she begins to pound the ivories harder before the track resolves into a powerful ending.
Carlton is an emotionally-driven artist. Putting her emotions into her compositions, “Earlier Things Live” helps listeners recognize her true talent and ability better than ever before. With this organic recording and release, Carlton reminds us that she can truly sing and play without all the studio magic, and that’s an impressive feat.