An unusual light shines through Liberman, Vanessa Carlton’s fifth album. Its ten songs, built on ethereal melodies and lush orchestration, seem to climb out of the shadows, each resonating with a sense of haunting positivity. The opening track, “Take It Easy,” instantly sets the tone, inviting the listener into a sort of sonic euphoria: each note and lyric thereafter builds on that aesthetic, creating an ongoing narrative that unfurls over its classic side A and side B. 

“It’s a calm record,” Carlton says. “I didn’t want any angst in there. I thought, ‘What would I want to hear back? What would make me feel better in my darker times?’ Even a phrase like ‘take it easy,’ which is in a million songs, brings happiness. This album leans toward seeing the good in humans and in the world.” 

Carlton began writing in the summer of 2012, beginning with “Unlock The Lock,” an evocative piano-driven track that set the tone for the songs to come. She’d recently finished touring 2011’s Rabbits On The Run, an album conceived through inspiration from Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time and Richard Adam’s Watership Down. Carlton found herself in the desert and the song emerged, reflecting a newly revealing songwriting sensibility for the artist. “I imagined a group of people listening to it,” she says. “It was the first time I ever wanted to make something like séance music – something that would make a human brain feel at ease, something that would feel right in an everyday ritual. I also realized I wanted the record to be really soothing lyrically and not so much a reveal of me.”

The musician followed that thread as she continued writing for the next year and a half, this time inspired by books like Joseph Campbell’s The Power of Myth and Aldous Huxley’s The Doors of Perception. Carlton’s primary influence, however, was a colorful oil painting by her grandfather Alan J. Lee, who was originally named Liberman. The painting, created in 1963, hangs in Carlton’s home and showcases three woman captured in swirling pastel colors. She wrote many songs while looking at the image, eventually deciding to call the album after her grandfather. 

“The swirly colors of that painting reminded me of the music and the music reminds me of those colors” Carlton notes. “Then I looked up what Liberman means and it’s ‘honorable man’ and ‘my beloved’ – all these things that just felt right to me. It’s a strong family name that, in a weird way, describes the music to me.”

At the end of 2013, Carlton gathered her songs and decamped to Real World Studio in Box, England to work with producer Steve Osborne, who’d helmed Rabbits On The Run. In the studio, Carlton and Osborne focused on the sound, on creating layers of instrumentation with classic gear that veer away from crisp pop production and reference artists like Air. For Carlton, who began her career with several albums at the mercy of prescribed aesthetics, emphasizing the art of space and sonic beauty felt like the next step. This shift is revealed particularly in the trippy ambience of “House of Seven Swords” and the moody “Ascension,” which builds a soundscape outward from the piano at its center. 

Carlton rounded out the album in Nashville, the city she now calls home, with producer Adam Landry who worked on three tracks. Carlton’s husband, Deer Tick front man John McCauley, played on several songs throughout the process, including “Take it Easy,” “Ascension” and “Matter of Time.” The latter is stripped of instrumentation and highlights Carlton’s voice as it soars over McCauley’s delicately plucked electric guitar, reminiscent of the old school vocal recordings of Dusty Springfield. As a whole, Liberman feels like a new chapter in Carlton’s storied career, revealing new facets of her musical skill and instigating fresh inspirations. Stagnancy, she knows, is the antithesis to creativity. 

“Martin Scorsese said sometimes your greatest challenge is not your failure but your success,” Carlton says. “In a way I was able to persevere after having a success out of the gate and figure out a path that feels really pure to me. But I had to create this environment where I felt comfortable changing. When I was first doing records I was so young and I wanted to please everyone. But now I sort of feel ancient and I love it and I just want to make art for its own sake. Whether I fall on my face or not at least I know I did it. Everything I’ve done and everything I am is there in the songs.” 

Upcoming Tour Dates:

  • Oct 30                   Louisville, KY @ Zanzabar
  • Oct 31                   Indianapolis, IN @ The Hi-Fi
  • Nov 01                  Iowa City, IA @ The Englert Theatre
  • Nov 02                  Green Bay, WI @ Meyer Theatre
  • Nov 04                  Minneapolis, MN @ Cedar Cultural Center
  • Nov 05                  Omaha, NE @ The Waiting Room
  • Nov 06                  Lawrence, KS @ The Bottleneck
  • Nov 07                  St Louis, MO @ Duck Room at Blueberry Hill
  • Nov 09                  Columbus, OH @ A&R Music Bar
  • Nov 10                  Chicago, IL @ City Winery
  • Nov 11                  Evanston, IL @ SPACE
  • Nov 13                  Ann Arbor, MI @ The Blind Pig
  • Nov 14                  Pittsburgh, PA @ Club Cafe
  • Nov 15                  Cleveland, OH @ Music Box Supper Club
  • Nov 17                  London, Ontario @ London Music Hall
  • Nov 18                  Toronto, Ontario @ Mod Club
  • Nov 20                  Montreal, Quebec @ Lion d’Or
  • Nov 21                  Ottawa, Ontario @ Mavericks
  • Nov 22                  Appleton, Ontario @ North on 29
  • Nov 23                  Hamilton, Ontario @ Molson Canadian Studio at Hamilton Place
  • Nov 30                  New York, NY @ City Winery
  • Dec 01                   New York, NY @ City Winery
  • Dec 03                   Troy, NY @ Troy Savings Bank Music Hall
  • Dec 04                   Northampton, MA @ Iron Horse Music Hall
  • Dec 05                   Portland, ME @ Asylum
  • Dec 07                   Allston, MA @ Brighton Music Hall
  • Dec 08                   Fairfield, CT @ StageOne
  • Dec 09                   Philadelphia, PA @ World Cafe Live
  • Dec 11                   Washington, DC  @ The Howard Theatre
  • Dec 12                   Charlottesville, VA @ The Southern
  • Dec 14                   Durham, NC @ The Carolina Theatre
  • Dec 15                   Atlanta, GA @ Terminal West
  • Dec 17                  Nashville, TN @ 3rd & Lindsley
  • Dec 18                  Birmingham, AL @ WorkPlay
  • Dec 19                  Asheville, NC @ New Mountain Theatre

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