Album Review: Alanis Morissette – Flavors of Entanglement

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Since 1991, Ms. “Jagged Little Pill” has graced us with everything from bombastic ballads, pop-infused dance numbers, folk/acoustic ambiance, and – let’s not forget – post-grunge emotional atrophy.  We’ve watched this Canadian jewel spawn hit after hit in the 90s, and then retire to lesser-known genres to explore her deeper feminity and world causes.  Sadly, the best of her recent efforts came when Under Rug Swept was released.  Thankfully, it now appears she’s back in full form originality with a few twists to boot.

2008’s Flavors Of Entanglement is being hailed by critics as a possibly ‘”long-standing masterpiece” in the Alanis Morissette catalog.  Despite only selling 56,000 copies worldwide this past week, her collaboration with Guy Sigsworth on production has added both depth and atmosphere to what can only be described as “organic synth meets folk rock”.  Ironically, not only does this theme run like a vein through the whole album, the overall comes off like a major highway with pit stops along the way.

The “Flavors” are all unique, but share a common thread – passion and natural beauty.

On the first song, “Citizen Of The Planet” we see her use of world exploration, metaphorical poetry, and beautiful synth with acoustic background.  As the chorus comes into view, we hear that wonderful remnant of angst shine through distorted guitar riffs and penetrating vocals – by far the best song I’ve heard from Alanis in ages.

Then comes “Underneath”, which appears to be forgettable because it didn’t stick to me at all.  Others who crave her softer pop side might appreciate it more than I.  “Straitjacket” feels a tad soft at first (much like “Citizen…”), and then rings in with “this shit’s making me crazy”.  The major stand-out about it?  My only concern – a pop/synth beat reminiscent of Madonna.  Lyrics and music are catchy, but it still keeps her relationship disappointment rantings near and dear as only she can do.

The fourth track, titled “Versions of Violence” takes a page right out of the Evanescence School Of Haunting Pop Operatics.  This can be either good or bad, depending on your taste.  I applaud it because we rarely hear this side of Alanis anymore, and it’s a brave move to make considering how Amy Lee saturated the early ’00 airwaves.  My opinion?  Alanis’ vocals are more abrasive, and therefore add a tinge of original sin to said track.  Absolutely amazing.

After an array of synthesized Morissette electricity, “Not As We” is your average piano ballad.  Her poetic lyrics are admirable, and though her voice (in my personal view) isn’t made for these songs, it’s a broad track and is worth a couple listens.  Track six, “In Praise Of The Vulnerable Man”, is obviously another relationship song, and it almost has the taste of “Head Over Feet” from a pop perspective, and I enjoyed it.

“Moratorium” is yet another chilling song not to be ignored, but has more drum loops involved.  A club hit waiting to happen, I can feel it.  “Torch may be a throwaway that clones “In Praise Of…”.  Normally, having multiple break-up songs on one Alanis Morissette album comes standard, but as the rest of Flavors defy standard – it is disappointing to have this as a part of her musical quota.

“Giggle Again For No Reason” is a pop song worthy of a hip-hop remix, so here is more of that aforementioned twisting in Alanis’ repertoire.  Once over, the song “Tapes” is another bright and shining gem.  Everything comes together, both lyrically and musically.  Last but unfortunately least, “Incomplete” is one of those happy songs that you could picture hearing in your local supermarket.  Good closer for this album, though not a particular favorite.

Morissette’s portrayal in Kevin Smith’s Dogma as God is what gave me the utmost respect for her open mind and thirst for life.  Flavors Of Entanglement on the whole is a great combination for any music lover.  Split in two between jovial pop and blissful angst, it can turn any moment into one worth seizing. This record is best for those with exactly what she treasures most – an open mind.

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