You grew up listening to "Ordinary Day," the infectious 2002 single from Vanessa Carlton, a singer that helped you get through many a teen relationship in the early 2000s. And the 33-year-old musician, and her music, has grown up, too. Carlton's upcoming album, Liberman, is a firm departure from the piano-pop she perfected in the early aughts, veering into a territory that's far more honest and whimsical than anything she's done before. "I really wanted it to feel like a dream," Carlton tells Bustle. "[It's] a little trippy, peaceful, [and] meant to be listened to with headphones on when you're walking."
Indeed, the 10-song album is far more than just a trip down nostalgia lane for music fans who regularly cranked up "A Thousand Miles" on their stereos. (Not that her new sound takes anything away from the teenage angst she helped you explore — she agrees that those times are "the worst.") It encapsulates the indie spirit Carlton has wanted to showcase for some time. The singer has always had artistically sophisticated musical tastes — now, with Liberman, she just gets to experiment with them. Though Carlton still plays the piano on the album, she also makes use of kettles for Liberman, which contribute to the "really lush" feel of the album.
You may wonder why Carlton transitioned from lighthearted piano pop fare to a more interesting sound. But Carlton says Liberman was the album she always wanted to make — if only it wasn't so tough to experiment when you're first starting out. Though her first two albums — Be Not Nobody and Harmonium — were released through the major label A&M Records, she found more freedom when she recorded independently with Razor & Tie with her fourth effort, 2011's Rabbits On the Run. And that album (which also lead to the holiday EP, Hear The Bells) only paved the way for the upcoming Liberman. "Rabbits on The Run — starting with that record — that's a real indication of where I'm at," she says. "I got to work with [musicians and producers like] New Order, Peter Gabriel, [and we] recorded it all on tape, all analogue ... Once I made that record, it was so revitalizing for me as an artist. I have some place to go now."
That place is Liberman. For Carlton, it's a much more honest album, too — she's being true to her artistry and her ancestry. In fact, the name of the album comes from her grandfather's original last name (Carlton has said previously that "he felt like he needed to change it. He was an artist, he was a painter. He was also a designer of shirts and stuff [...] He had a really successful company and at the beginning of his company, he didn't feel like it would do well with a Jewish name like that"), which means "honorable person."
So when will she get a chance to debut this new material live? Carlton is going on a mini tour throughout the month of June with upcoming stops in Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania. But don't expect to see her in an amphitheater — Carlton's upcoming tour will be far more intimate, with the singer performing in small towns and venues. Still, those venues will be big enough to fit Carlton's two biggest MVPs: Her parents, who she says will attend some of her shows. (And as any musician or performer knows, this is always an awesome perk.)
Speaking of "honorable" people, Carlton is doing some charity work while not promoting Liberman. She recently performed in Rockaway Beach for the 8th Annual Barefoot Wine Beach Rescue Project, which was sponsored by the Surfrider Foundation, a non-profit organization that aims to preserve and protect oceans and beaches. "I was genuinely happy to be a part of it," says Carlton, whose great-grandmother often frequented Rockaway Beach. "It was a personal thing." Much like Liberman.
But don't worry — Carlton is still playing old songs on her tour, but it's highly likely that since you're all grown up, just like Carlton, you'll dig this new style, too. You can listen to one of her favorite tracks off of Liberman, "Take It Easy," below.
Images: A&M Records; Hunter PR