Vanessa Carlton, "Liberman" (Dine Alone)

Carlton's fifth record is another step in her decade-long evolution from polished pop star to introspective indie auteur. These 10 songs, which track life's little complexities and the quest for happiness, coalesce into a smartly revealing song suite. At times Carlton's vocals are layered for dreamlike harmonies, and the reverb-heavy production mirrors the lyrics' emotional turmoil. The finest tracks, including the piano-driven "Unlock the Lock" and "River," are affecting melodic melancholia. She calibrates her pop instincts and soul-searching lyrics best on the conflicted yet hook-filled "Nothing Where Something Used to Be," singing "I don't know who I am/ are we all searching for something we don't understand?" Carlton's reinvention finds her a long way from "A Thousand Miles." She performs Wednesday at Cedar Cultural Center in Minneapolis.



Moody electronica chanteuse Grimes whets appetites for her Nov. 6 full-length, shuffling identities like a boho Gaga on the dance-floor blaster "Flesh Without Blood," then downshifting into the delicate, acoustic-flavored "Life in the Vivid Dream."