Forgotten series: Alanis Morissette – Flavors of Entanglement (2008)

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One aspect of songwriting that has always drawn me in is introspection. When reviewers get on their high horse and start flinging the “navel gazer” tag around, I almost always side with the artist.

I mean, here we might have a singer/songwriter who has attained a certain level of celebrity. The concert venues might even be selling out regularly. When the new record comes out, the pack descends with torches flaming and word processors insisting that the sophomore slump is in full effect — that the artist has nothing left to say and is far too self-absorbed.

I dunno about any of that, because the fact that Alanis Morissette’s songwriting might revolve around her own interior life is what attracted me to her in the first place. Jagged Little Pill (technically, her third record) was a sparkling bag of autobiographical angst that exploded Alanis onto the pop and rock scene. With Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie, the race was on to crown her washed up. Ah, what do critics know!? (Wait … what am I saying?!) With songs like “So Pure” and (especially) “Thank U,” framed with some different musical colorations, I was hooked.

Bring on the navel-gazing!

Ahem …

With Flavors Of Entanglement, Alanis mined her inner thought groove to great effect. Whether it’s a cry out for the state of the world (“Citizen of the Planet”), relationship troubles (“Moratorium,” with the patented Alanis cyclical restatement of themes in the chorus), or steady gazes at echoes of loss (“Not As We”, “Torch”), Morissette fearlessly laid it all out there.

Ah, and then there’s the sound. To be honest, I was a little afraid of what would happen when I learned that Alanis was bringing Guy Sigsworth to take charge of production. While I do love Bjork, the idea of an Alanis Morissette record with that level of techno-lacquer was just not all that appealing. My worries were unfounded as Flavors dipped into sounds both organic (the Eastern threads on the shimmering opening of “Citizen of the Planet”) and electronic: the sizzling thump of “Straitjacket,” as well as the crunching rock that “Citizen” morphs into.

Honesty of presentation is, in big part, what makes this music so attractive. In one song she can sing about love that’s gone away, take a detour through positive revelations (“In Praise of the Vulnerable Man”) and then head back to the time-out zone: “Moratorium.” It all hangs together quite nicely.

I’ve always thought that the world could use a little more introspection. If Flavors of Entanglement, even for a moment, pushed us in that direction, that can’t be a bad thing.

… or so says a critic.

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Mark Saleski

Mark Saleski

Mark Saleski is a writer and music obsessive based out of the woods of central New Hampshire. A past contributor to Jazz.com, Blogcritics.org and Salon, he originated several of our weekly features including the Friday Morning Listen, (Cross the) Heartland, WTF! Wednesday, and Sparks Fly on E Street. Follow him on Twitter: @msaleski. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.
Mark Saleski
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