Tuesday, November 23, 2004

CD Review: "Harmonious" by Vanessa Carlton

Today I went to the music store and eagerly stood in line to buy an album. I rushed over to the new releases, my eye drawn to “Creed’s Greatest Hits”. I walked over, took a look, and promptly ran to the bathroom to vomit. Seriously, did you think I would buy Creed’s Greatest hits? But I digress.

I actually went there today to buy U2’s new effort. While I was there, I picked up “Harmonious” by Vanessa Carlton. I walked to the cash register with shame and never made eye contact with the lady. Albums like this should be purchased online and signed for by an unsuspecting family member.

Seriously, I’ve wanted to buy this album for quite some time. Most stores like Wal-Mart and Target aren’t carrying it.

I’ll be honest and say I haven’t listened to the whole thing. I might keep it wrapped and have a relative give it to me for Christmas. But I’ve listened to all the songs I could find on Kazaa and heard 30-second clips from all the songs. I feel I have enough information to give a marginally competent review.

“Harmonious” is the follow-up album to her 2002 release of “Be Not Nobody”. Most people know Vanessa Carlton from her hit single “A Thousand Miles”. But a hidden gem in that album was the song “Ordinary Day”. Although she got good airplay out of “A Thousand Miles”, I still feel that album was unsuitably appreciated.

“White Houses” is the most noteworthy single from this album. It’s perhaps among my top five songs of 2004. Her voice is simply beautiful. The song has a wonderful melody.

I’ve taken a while to think about the song and what it means. In addition, I went online and read what others were thinking. The “White Houses” that she refers to are probably fraternity houses or college dormitories. In a more broad sense, Carlton tells the tale of five young people who spent a summer together.

She takes a liking to the boy “in his bright red shirt”. They have sex in the back of his car and presumably lose contact. In the last verse, she almost begs him to remember her. Carlton sings, “And you, maybe you’ll remember me / What I gave was yours to keep.” While what she “gave” to him might be construed as her virginity, I see it more as a case of her lost innocence. The impression I get of the girl is that she’s very young and naïve.

I also think there might be some socially conservative undercurrents to this song. My sense is that she regrets having premarital sex. Take a look at this stanza, “My first time, hard to explain / Rush of blood, oh, and a little bit of pain / On a cloudy day it’s more common than you think / He’s my first mistake”. Right there, it’s written that she thinks she made a mistake. She’s also commenting, IMO, on the fact that a lot of young girls get caught up and make mistakes with boys. The “little bit of pain” line was great. I don’t think I need to explain what that refers to. Overall, this was a beautiful way of explaining her first time.

I’m trying to understand what the “white houses” symbolize. Any English novice could tell you that white represents purity. Some have suggested that the white houses are a metaphor for her heart. For example, when she says that she's going keep all of the secrets in white houses, she means that she will keep secrets like drinking and within her heart.

There are some other good songs on this CD. “The Wreckage” chronicles the aftermath of a catastrophic automobile accident caused by road rage. There’s probably a deeper meaning here. Since I’ve already done one in-depth song review, I won’t do so here.

The songs I’ve listened to from this album are far better than most from “Be Not Nobody”. There is a darker element to a lot of these songs. You can see an advance of maturity in her sophomore effort.

Stephan Jenkins of “Third Eye Blind “fame is the co-writer and producer of this album. People tell me that he’s a lyrical genius and attribute the success of “Harmonious” to his efforts.

I’ll admit that the song “White Houses” is probably more for the young female audience. But it’s more mature than most of the stuff put forward by Hilary Duff and the like. I prefer this type of song over the teen angst ridden lyrics of Avril Lavigne. I’m sorry, but I can’t see Jessica Simpson or Britney Spears doing such a good song. I’d give Michelle Branch the edge over Vanessa Carlton, but I enjoy listening to both.

Overall, I give this album 8 out of 10 stars. While it lacks a hit of “A Thousand Miles” caliber, the totality of this album seems better than the last one. I recommend this album to anyone who isn’t ashamed to admit that they like Vanessa Carlton. And even if you can’t admit it in public, at the very least you can listen to it in your room alone at night. If anyone’s interested, ask me for a copy. I also have U2’s “How to dismantle an atomic bomb”. I will write a review of that CD later on in the week.

Taylor’s Review: ******** 8 stars (out of 10)
Release Date: 11/9/04


Anonymous Anonymous said...

psst *whispers* it's HarmoniUM, not Harmonious...

July 11, 2005 at 5:11 AM  

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