Vanessa Carlton Experiments With New Ideas on ‘Love Is An Art’

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Vanessa Carlton | Love Is An Art | (Dine Alone Records)

3.5 out of 5 stars

The proper way to greet Vanessa Carlton’s latest offering “Love Is An Art” is with an open mind. As she exhibits more experimental and retrospective songwriting on the record, one that offers an escape into dream pop and otherwise lulling music.  

The record is built on ambient and electronic sounds paired with echoing, reverb-heavy vocals.  The title track is a fluid piece of synth-driven, dream pop with subtle verse-chorus transitions that at times lack climax and dynamics, but also offer a first-person take on the lyrics which suggest a retrospective direction.  This same sentiment carries over to most of the remaining songs, like the single “The Only Way To Love” but the latter does offer more traditional instrumentation and song structure with the incorporation of drums and guitars that provide a more upbeat take on the ambient nature of the record.  

The counterpart to the record is the offering on “Salesman”, the only song from the record that doesn’t open with some kind of electronic or synthetic element, but instead uses it for texture.  Its lead with acoustic guitar and story-like lyrics: ‘Handsome salesman sold you heaven/Now you wait for it to fall/Until then you will surrender it all’ present just a hint of something stripped down and only use electronic elements and samples appropriately like on the closing syllables of the lines: ‘Now you’re praying on your knees/Mirror, mirror, do you like it?/Do you like what you see?’ which add emphasis to the phrases while still allowing the acoustic guitar to stand more front-facing.  

I applaud Carlton’s experimental approach on the songs and see the retrospective ideas put forth in the lyrical lines, which as a musician will only lend a hand to her diversity as an artist.

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