Most people own one Alanis Morissette album: Jagged Little Pill. For those of a certain age, it's an album that defined our teen angst and shouted to our lovers of yore a loud, angry "F You!"
Alanis went on to record more albums, and some were successful (Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie went platinum three times) while others were not (her last album So-Called Chaos peaked at No. 5 on the Billboard 200 chart), but none were quite as beloved as Jagged.
Some critics have attributed the disappointment of Chaos to Alanis' "domestic bliss" at the time, which now appears to be over as a result of her broken engagement to Ryan Reynolds. I'd like to counter that her recent musical downfalls have occurred because she was the lead producer. With her new album, Flavors of Entanglement, Alanis lets someone else run the show, something she hasn't done since Jagged.
That someone is producer Guy Sigsworth, and he is a breath of fresh air. He takes Alanis in a new direction, closer to the sounds of other artists that he's produced including Imogen Heap, Bjork and Madonna ("What it Feels Like for a Girl"), while not leading Alanis too far astray. Thankfully, this is not a transition like Jewel's disastrous 0304, it's more of a graduation. What results is an Everything but the Girl-esque sound mixed with Morissette's always strong lyrics, which, when combined, result in her strongest album in more than a decade.
To read my initial thoughts of each of the tracks,
- "Citizen of the Planet": Good introduction to the album, starts quiet and slow, but then grows to a more rocking anthem. When it gets going, it sounds similar in tone to something from Evanescence.
- "Underneath": This is the first single from the album. It's a safe, logical choice. While the song is smooth and pretty with a catchy chorus, I prefer the video. I'm looking forward to the next single.
- "Straitjacket": The anger we all remember from Jagged returns. Alanis yells the F word and frequently quips "this sh#t's making me crazy." The anger is offset with an electro-pop '80s sound. Me likey.
- "Versions of Violence": Starts as a slow and sensuous ballad that transitions into something you'd imagine Bjork rocking in her heyday. One of the best.
- "Not as We": The first true ballad, where she sings about "starting over again." With the first four tracks so strong and upbeat, this one feels a little out of place. Not a bad song per se, but it would have made more sense at the end of the disc.
- "In Praise of the Vulnerable Man": This would have been the better follow up to "Versions of Violence." Not quite a ballad, not quite an anthem, this pop-y ditty praises the brave, sexy, and yes, vulnerable man. Moving on.
- "Moratorium": On first listen, "Moratorium," is one of my favorites on the album. And it's probably the least Alanis-y. It's a serious, but bubbly, electronic song that sounds like it could have been ripped from a Frou Frou album, a band that Sigsworth formed with Imogen Heap.
- "Torch": Of all of the songs, "Torch" definitely has the the most heartbreaking lyrics. "I miss your smell, and your style, and your pure abiding way. Miss your approach to life, and your body in my bed." The words are coupled with moving guitar and string arrangements. If I weren't at work, this one might make me weepy. Might.
- "Giggling Again for No Reason": Very Everything but the Girl. Nothing revolutionary, but it has a fun dance vibe.
- "Tapes": This is where the album starts to come to a close. "Tapes" is a slower ballad where Alanis states that she's "someone easy to leave, even easier to forget." The music itself isn't quite as depressing, the chorus moves along happily.
- "Incomplete": This is probably my least favorite song on the album. I don't know why, but the beginning reminds me a little of Madonna's "Hey You" (not a good thing!). I would have preferred "Tapes" or "Not as We" to close out the album.
Have you heard the new Alanis yet? If so, what do you think? If not, will you be making the purchase?