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Tuesday Tunes: Spotlight on Alanis Morissette

alanis-morissette-havoc-and-bright-lightIt’s kind of ironic that on her eighth studio album, “Havoc and Bright Lights,” Alanis Morissette displays an affinity for pithy song titles (“Empathy,” “Lens,” “Spiral,” “Numb”) because, as always, she has a lot to say.

Many of Morissette’s fans have grown up with her, from the internal volcano she proudly spewed in her 20s (vulgarity has never sounded better than on “You Oughta Know”) through her diary entry musings the past decade to now, the slightly mushier Alanis who, like many of her fans, is a mom and wife.

But don’t think for a second that she’s lost her ability to emotionally decapitate those who Just Don’t Get It.

The heavy synths and disco rhythm of “Woman Down” might have something in common with ABBA, but the perky backdrop belies the serious lyrics about the cycle of abuse. And by song’s end, you know the woman has emerged victorious.

What have always been both admirable and frustrating about Morissette are her lyrical ramblings, and she’s right on point here. “I’ve only known a lust for VIP,” she snarl-sings in “Celebrity,” a withering takedown of our obsession with vapidity told from the viewpoint of the desperate starlet who pleads, “Tell me who I have to be.”

But while Morissette’s superfluous lyrics can be a challenge to slog through at times, they’re usually worth the effort because of her thoughtful approach.

Musically, she’s on familiar terrain with “Numb,” a slow-building rocker filled with scattered guitar. But for as much as Morissette is painted as a banshee who only screams about ignorant men, some of her best material over the years has been soft melodies coupled with unguarded emotions (“Everything,” “Unsent,” “So Unsexy”).

Here, the sweet “’Til You,” a gently clicking ballad, and the carefree “Spiral,” on which she professes her need for that person who “bring[s] the light back in” and turns down the negative voices, provide that complement.

‘Havoc and Bright Lights” might not be perfect, but it’s easily Morissette’s most cohesive album since a decade ago (“Under Rug Swept”). And besides, why would someone who is constantly self-interrogating ever want to achieve perfection?

Also available Tuesday:

  • Deanna Bogart, “Pianoland,” the ninth album from the boogie-blues multi-instrumentalist (mostly piano and sax) that showcases her masterful fusion of sounds.
  • Juliana Hatfield, “Juliana Hatfield,” on which the alt-rock queen goes the all-covers route, tackling songs from The Who (“My Wife”), Ryan Adams (‘Do I Wait”) and Led Zeppelin (“Rock and Roll”).
  • The Wood Brothers, “Live Vol. 2: Nail & Tooth,” recorded throughout a 20-date tour. The guys revamp songs from previous albums and delve into covers from influences such as Allen Toussaint’s “Get Out of My Life Woman.”
  • Bruce Hornsby, “Red Hook Summer: Music from the Original Motion Picture,” the soundtrack to the Spike Lee film which contains mostly instrumentals from the nimble-fingered Hornsby with a couple of songs featuring vocals. Hornsby previously scored Lee’s ESPN film, “Kobe Doin’ Work.”
  • Minus the Bear, “Infinity Overhead,” the fourth full-length album from the Seattle-based modern prog-rockers.

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By Melissa Ruggieri, Atlanta Music Scene

15 comments Add your comment

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Tanja

August 28th, 2012
2:17 am

Whoa. Dear John is a TAYLOR SWIFT song, I believe. Alanis *never* wrote a song called Dear John. Shouldn’t you do some research? Perhaps you meant Unsent. But still, do your research, please.

Luis

August 28th, 2012
7:54 am

Great Review. Enjoying the new album :-D

Sid Vicious

August 28th, 2012
8:22 am

I am going to have to pursue the Juliana Hatfield CD. It’s been years since I heard a raspy graceful voice like hers that is meaningful. Even if the new album is cover songs or not.

Michelle

August 28th, 2012
9:18 am

Thanks for reviewing Alanis’ new album. I am a life long fan and can’t wait to see her in concert this Fall!

gtalum06

August 28th, 2012
9:31 am

So excited for this album today. I’m one of the fans who has followed her from angry rocker to bitter, heartbroken young woman through her emotional diary-singing and beyond… it’s refreshing to see positive reviews, and I can’t wait for her to return to Atlanta in October!

YANK

August 28th, 2012
9:50 am

Just imagine if Taylor Hawkins had stuck with her instead of Dave Grohl!
http://www.facebook.com/notquitedevils

Kandi

August 28th, 2012
10:30 am

Tamia’s Beautiful Surprise is also out today. :)

Jiri

August 28th, 2012
11:37 am

Alanis is wonderfull. She was at Colours of Ostrava festival couple weeks ago. Here is Concerts of Ostrava http://koncerty-ostrava.blogspot.cz/

Melissa Ruggieri

August 28th, 2012
12:38 pm

Tanja – yep, you’re correct. The song is “Unsent,” but is often referred to as her “Dear John” song which is what was in my brain. It’s been fixed.

Thanks,
Melissa

Mike

August 28th, 2012
1:32 pm

Loving “Havoc and Bright Lights”. I’ve been looking forward to this album all summer. Alanis is such an underrated artist.

Can’t wait to see her at The Tabernacle in October!

Fred ™

August 28th, 2012
6:34 pm

Just damn. You get PAID to listen to new albums and go to concerts. That’s not fair lol.

Thanks for the review.

Tanja

August 29th, 2012
8:34 am

Melissa – thanks so much. :)