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Album Review

Vanessa Carlton, 'Rabbits on the Run'

July 25, 2011

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With “A Thousand Miles’’ and its licensing fees likely paying her bills ever since she was too young to drink in the piano bars she used to play, Vanessa Carlton can afford to take her sweet time between albums. Her progress as a recording artist has often seemed slow as a result, but “Rabbits on the Run,’’ her fourth full-length album and first since 2007, sees her finally moving away from the shiny pop production and lit-mag smartypantsery that marked her previous work. Carlton’s piano playing finds a comfortable pocket, and there’s refreshingly little of the overworked poesy that was once her calling card. Free of the need to prove what a clever young woman she is, she’s finally within reach of the warm adult pop she’s always aspired to, especially on the soothing embrace of “Get Good.’’ Unfortunately, it turns out that those now-shelved annoyances provided Carlton with an identity; forging ahead without them, the singer slips into semi-orchestral tedium (“London,’’ “Fairweather Friend’’) and self-conscious haziness (“Hear the Bells,’’ “In the End’’). Carlton’s wheels are finally spinning forward, but they don’t gain much traction. (Out tomorrow) MARC HIRSH

ESSENTIAL “Get Good’’