Year of the Album — #027
Vanessa Carlton – “Rabbits on the Run” (2011, Razor & Tie)
“You’ve got a knife-throwing kind of love,” Vanessa Carlton sings on “London,” the third track off her fourth studio album Rabbits on The Run, which is due out June 21st on Razor & Tie. And it’s immediately clear on this album that Carlton’s not afraid to throw a few knives herself. Cutting to the bone, these ten razor-sharp diary entries bring Carlton right back to where she was on 2002’s Be Not Nobody.
In the ensuing nine years she has fallen by the wayside of the pop music world, wrongly relegated to the “one-hit wonder” label. But Vanessa Carlton is one of those songwriters who was never over-reliant on hooks to find success, and though three-year waits between albums have not been kind to her fanbase, those who have stuck around are going to be pleased with the result of the time taken to hone her craft. Though these songs, including single-candidate “Carousel,” don’t have the sound pop radio thrives on these days, as a whole the album plays well, Carlton’s music not sounding nearly as dated as one might expect.
As a result, Rabbits on the Run doesn’t have any real sense of immediacy, but that means the album’s less likely to live or die on first-week sales. There’s a sense that this is music meant to be savored, enjoyed in repeat listens as a full meal rather than just tantalizing single-serving appetizers. And Carlton has survived where her early ‘00s contemporaries have failed. Willing to write and record without guaranteed radio success to buoy her career, Vanessa Carlton has managed to bring the unexpected, while the likes of Anna Nalick still have yet to attempt a follow-up.
This isn’t music you’re going to hold up ten years from now and say “this is what makes pop music!” But Vanessa Carlton proves with Rabbits on the Run that, for a songwriter, what you need to do is make good music. If the music itself holds water, the rest takes care of itself. In this age of corporate radio and failing record labels, more artists could stand to take a lesson from that. And music fans willing to take a step off the beaten path should find plenty to enjoy about this album as well.