If you weren’t already aware, Alanis Morrissette‘s got a new record out, and it’s quite good. But don’t take it from just me…take it from me and my guest writer, RJ (AutomaticTLC).
I live the American dream and can back this up with one simple trait that over two-thirds of Americans all share: I haven’t listened to an Alanis Morrissette album since Jagged Little Pill. With that being said, as soon as it was let out that this forgotten rock star was teaming up with the lush and lovely Guy Sigsworth, Flavors of Entanglement automatically jumped on to the “buy this now” list.
Alanis could care less about the opening paragraph of this review, because according to track number one, she is a “Citizen of the Planet,” not just the United States. African, Middle Eastern and modern rock influences electronically thrive through this absolutely flawless aggressive down-tempo vibe and sounds like something that could be played over the opening track of an epic movie. A Natalie Imbruglia-esque “Underneath” plays after.
Flavors of Entanglement‘s highlight track is not buried too far into the album. “Straitjacket” is five steps up from Britney Spears‘ “Piece Of Me,” and grabs the listener from the beginning industrial grinding synths, angst filled lyrics, and the line, “I don’t know who you’re talking to with such fucking disrespect” all the way through to a bass drop, when the track then explodes into an angry and emotional diary that vows, “I swear you won’t be happy till I’m bound in a straitjacket.” Well Alanis, I always did like you better when you were a raging psychopath. Ryan Reynolds (Alanis’ ex) must be shaking in his boots.
The music your ears will moan over doesn’t stop in the insane asylum. “Versions of Violence” follows with eerie dragged out verses and is offers a call out to any sort of violence, lamenting that no matter how small of a violent act is committed, a mark is still left on that person. “Not as We” smooths things out with a solemn piano melody. Its a nice break and allows you to turn down the volume, as the prior two tracks demanded that you cranked it up.
“In Praise of the Vulnerable Man” dives into more happier territory and offers the epic “Moratorium” to build and lead you to think back of Frou Frou‘s “Shh” and “Psychobabble” songs off of their wildly popular Details album. From here on out, the album pretty much follows in the same path as its been going on, as “Torch” offers yet another piano track and “Giggling Again for No Reason” which sums up every aspect of the album, as it offers an electronic haven, as well as a down-tempo groove and a small bit of guitar. Giggling not only gets respect for its super cute track title, but for its eclectic energy.
“Tapes” starts out like something that experimental group Pink Floyd would take a stab at producing if they were still together and trying new things in the studio and continues to keep an ambient-like state, while still staying true to the electronic-rock sound that drives this album. Haunting background vocals that start toward the middle of the track and then resurface towards the end make this song a special gem in Flavors of Entanglement.
Sadly, “Incomplete” sounds extremely incomplete and could have easily been replaced with something else to finish the album. Lyrically, it has everything that usually ends out an album that is this amazing, however, the lyrical melody of the verses offers a childlike atmosphere, as does the acoustic guitar sound, but until this point, the album has been strictly mature-adult sounding. Why bring on the extreme happiness now? Doesn’t make sense, however, the chorus offers layer after layer and has subtle Imogen Heap-like background vocals, which is a plus.
Overall, the album is like this: you know when you’re out in the cold and someone keeps punching you over and over again and it hurts extra hard in the spot they keep hitting you because your body is borderline numb? Flavors of Entanglement offers that punch and while its not the same “I will burn down your house motherfucker” momentum that her debut album offers, its the best thing since.
Note: Please make sure to play this album through your stereo. It sounds so much better than listening through computer speakers.
“I don’t know who you’re talking to with such fucking disrespect,” the Canadian songstress growls off the top verse of “Straitjacket” the third track from the upcoming album, Flavors of Entanglement. And in that moment, there’s little doubt of what’s already been established: Alanis Morrissette is at her prime when pissed. It’s a fact that’s been beaten to death within mainstream media over the past ten years. But unlike the ultra-angst of Jagged Little Pill and Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie, discontent is only a minor theme of the Flavors experience. There’s contemplation, restlessness, and pure happiness…all components of Alanis’ dizzying array of emotions in the past few months.
Written during the break-up period of her engagement to Ryan Reynolds last year and produced only a few months ago, Flavors features an array of emotions that have only recently been tapped. As she’s explained in recent interviews, the album is very much a snapshot of the very recent experiences in Morrissette’s life. With the help of producer Guy Sigsworth‘s signature gothic, stringed tinglings of electricity, the songs featured here offer a stunning variety of sound–perhaps her most diverse collection yet.
Morrissette is still a brilliant storyteller, and tracks like “Underneath,” the lead-off single, illuminate her talent in its exploration of the inner arguments that make their way out into the grander scheme of things. There’s the breathlessly beautiful, simple piano ballad “Not As We” which showcases a more uncommonly seen vulnerable side, while “Versions of Violence” exists as a menacing almighty eruption of discontent. In fact, it’s difficult to go through a track-by-track review, as each song is so wonderfully crafted.
One particular, unexpected standout from the pack here though is “Giggling Again For No Reason,” which might as well have been an album track right off of Imogen Heap‘s epic Speak For Yourself. It’s beautifully listless and teeming with richly layered sound in the same style as the gloriously talented Ms. Heap. “Tapes” too is an outright triumph, featuring an out of body-like experience into the mind of the artist herself. As the album glides into its final throws, this electro-lite masterpiece is an impressive source of delight.
Flavors is probably her finest moment since her breakthrough album released ten years ago. I could recall at least eight tracks off the top of my head that I would classify as instant successes, which is an incredibly rare occurrence for a single album. You’ll certainly be seeing this one featured in the “best of” write-ups later on in the year. With lyrics as searching as that of Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie, jubilant moments of So Called Chaos, and captivating, raw emotion reminiscent of Jagged Little Pill, the album is an laudable collection of things past and a marker of maturity for the artist as diverse and talented as Ms. Morrissette. A true artist, indeed.