Sound — 10
I said I would write a review for Vanessa's second album, so here I am, back again. As stated before on my Be Not Nobody review, Harmonium is a great departure from Vanessa's debut effort in that she has really grown up. Boy, where do I start? First things first. The sound on this album is incredible. This album showcases Vanessa's talent on piano, a lot more than her first album. I have never heard better piano playing from anyone in the music business where it concerns Adult alternative. From Harmonium's first listen, you can instantly tell she has improved by a mile musically. Harmonium departs from Be Not Nobody in that Vanessa's playing takes more of a classical vibe than her previous effort. She hasn't lost anything in this record, most sophomore efforts unfortunately lack charisma. The melodies are unmistakably better, I think my personal favourite is White Houses (which actually got censored on MTV, Go Nessa), who's to say and Private Radio. What suprised me most was the inclusion of the number, Afterglow which didn't make it onto Be Not Nobody. I know for certain that this is an old song (from AOL Sessions 2002) but I was perplexed why she included it. There have been dozens of unreleased songs that I've heard and I would have loved it if she included them on the album, Morning Sting, Birdie are a few in mind. Unfortunately she didn't but that's not a complaint. One listen to Afterglow and you'll realise she had the talent on piano way before Be Not Nobody. As I said in my Be Not Nobody review, her first effort concentrated more on melody than piano playing. Harmonium concentrates on both elements and I can't say she could have done it better. I think "Annie" and the very dark, "C'est la Vie" is one of those tracks which illustrates this perfectly. The tracks which shows Vanessa's talent on piano, in my opinions, would be Annie, Half a Week Before the Winter, Papa, The Wreckage and Afterglow. Harmonium is a personal favourite of mine and there is no doubt that this is Vanessa at her best in terms of piano playing (this is where I got my Username, Harmonius if you haven't guessed already). I especially like the production of this album. When you get the CD, it comes with a CD ROM which features the making of the album, a special over an hour long video, including footage with producer, Stephen Jenkins (of Third Eye Blind). It details how this album was produced including the ghost-screams that can be heard in "She Floats".
Lyrics — 10
Lyrics have greatly improved. In short there is nothing this album lacks. It is a definitive improvement of the already perfect Be Not Nobody. The lyrics above anything are amazing. My favourite line Vanessa sings appears on Afterglow, "Watch the sun, it paints an orange sky. Lay me down and feel the day's gone by". Harmonium differs from Be Not Nobody in the lyrical department in that the lyrics appear to be more meaningful and more evocative. You can actually see what she sings and best yet, there's always a real-life tale involved. For example, Who's to say is about relationships that aren't approved of, as Vanessa famously stated, "either by your mother, or the government". Private Radio is about the continuous surge of clone music on the radio, White Houses is about a girl losing her virginity (co-written by Stephen Jenkins of Third Eye Blind), Annie is about a young fan Vanessa knew who died from illness (this fan's name is actually Victoria but Vanessa stuck to Annie as it sounded better), Afterglow is about the feeling of worthiness after accomplishing something, Half a week before the Winter is actually about Vanessa's Vampyre fetish whom she thinks are, "Sexy, but just before they bite you" and She floats is about a little girl-ghost who used to visit Vanessa. As you can clearly see, the songmeanings are well documented. I have everything Vanessa's has done and when she plays live she always story tells, which proves that these lyrics must have taken considerable thought to write.
Overall Impression — 10
Harmonium is my favourite Vanessa Carlton Album, however, her third effort, Heroes and Thieves (Released October 9th 2007) is a strong contender. I've heard about half the tracks already that Vanessa has debuted live and mixed some full songs. Currently, I'm stoked for the new album, I absolutely love every single track that has been debuted. I can safetly say, however that Harmonium will be very hard to match when it concerns piano playing. From the stuff I've heard off Heroes and Thieves, it's more melodic with some great playing but Harmonium is the one to get if you really want to hear raw talent on piano. Get this album now. Despite it being not as sucessful as Be Not Nobody (alleged to be because Vanessa's label, "did a crap job promoting it") it is far superior. I know it, Vanessa Carlton fans know it and soon you will too when you listen to it. I give this album a 10 for a reason.