Friday, November 20th, 2015

Vanessa Carlton – Operator

The artist who launched a thousand piano lessons.


Sonia Yang: It’s as if someone merged Stars’ “Dead Hearts” with Regina Spektor’s “All The Rowboats“; the floaty hypnotism of the former balancing out the urgent darkness of the latter. Carlton’s sweet, reedy voice is cold and bitter, and it suits her. The track drags midway but is saved by the bridge, where everything falls back to vocal and piano, sinisterly.

Thomas Inskeep: The woman who launched a million piano lessons thirteen years ago has apparently done a lot of musical maturing — for example, her voice, which has texture to it. “Operator” produced by Steve Osborne (Suede, KT Tunstall, New Order, and formerly half of Perfecto with Paul Oakenfold), working Carlton’s piano and keyboards into the mix rather than spotlighting them, and bringing in subtle electronics. Lyrically it’s dark and urgent, and I love the way she leans into the words when singing “’cause this is gonna blow — your — mind.” As someone who only knows/recalls Carlton from the days of “A Thousand Miles,” I find “Operator” fascinating because it’s nothing like I’d expected: Fiona Apple-esque chamber pop, a marvelous return. 

Alfred Soto: “This is going to blow your mind,” she hopes over ominous synths and strumming, and she earns the Pitchfork endorsement. Not a departure from “A Thousand Miles.” She’s walked them. It was work, and her weary tone tells us. Deserves to compete with Bieber and Ellie Goulding in the top ten.

Iain Mew: It turns out it was my mishearing which had an early line as “girls ain’t just for boys” (it’s guns), but between “never tell your mother” and the melody of the “ah ah ah ah” “Operator” builds to, it still makes me think of Demi Lovato. Ice cold for the winter, perhaps — it has the same you-and-me-against-the-world intensity, but at a slower pace and with a different emphasis, joy given its place but the pressing need to escape seeping through everything. Vanessa Carlton carefully ekes out its foreboding mood, even fitting it around a lovely string interlude.

Katherine St Asaph: Sounds like Vanessa Carlton never left; that’s neither good nor bad, just means “Operator”‘s got to function as a re-introduction. In 2015 Carlton as a vocalist comes off as the midpoint of Carly Rae Jepsen and Demi Lovato: sweet with a snarl. As an instrumentalist and producer, her arrangements are far lusher than radio piano ballads allow these days. This includes her voice as an instrument: blending into peals, settling into a little disarming touchdown toward the end. It’d be genuinely great for this to catch on.

Will Adams: Liberman plays like a slow walk into the woods — head-clearing and contemplative — but “Operator” is an outlier. Over an urgent pulse, the prescriptive narrator intensifies into a manipulator, her intentions gradually unfurling. 

Reader average: [7.5] (2 votes)

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6 Responses to “Vanessa Carlton – Operator”

  1. I had forgotten about the thousand miles song. I immediatly associate it to the white chicks movie and laugh.

    This reminded me of Suzanne Vega of all people.

  2. I’m so happy tbh
    (and A Thousand Miles should get a renaissance sooner or later because that holds up better than it really should. Unless it never died in the first place…)

  3. omg i keep forgetting to listen to this record. i like this song a lot

  4. Liberman is fantastic

  5. Nontroversy!

  6. Oh this is actually amazing.