Saturday, September 1, 2012

Alanis Morissette's Continued "Havoc and Bright Lights"

Morissette keeps looking up
All right already, we know Jagged Little Pill (Maverick, 1995) was the ‘90’s Blue (Reprise, 1971), or Prozac. Like Joni Mitchell did post-Blue, Morissette followed up her third album (if you’re counting her first two straight up pop records for MCA Canada: Alanis, 1991 and Now Is the Time, 1992) with her own difficult diamond: Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie (Maverick, 1998).
Not a red haze of anger, it bled its complex emotional states all over the wax messily. Thankfully, Morissette focused her feelings and found a bridge between expression and contemplation with the remaining albums leading up to her eighth LP, this year’s Havoc and Bright Lights (Collective Sounds).

Unfortunately, Morissette has had to fend off the nostalgia nitpicking that plagued her when she refused to record Jagged Mach 2. Morissette clearly could care less if she is pleasing or confusing a sect of her fans/critics that want her to retreat to anger for anger’s sake. That freedom rings throughout Havoc and Bright Lights which plows the fields of the human experience that are not as easily resolved as a jilted heart.
Morissette with field & flowers

Working with Joe Chiccarelli and previous producer Guy Sigsworth (Robyn, Madonna, Björk, Lenka) Morissette lays down a map of music that is all at once kinetic, quiet, surprising, and acquainted.

The first song, and lead single, “Guardian” features a colossal crash of guitar undercut with a piano echo that earnestly proclaims devotion to the art of guardianship.  In other places, Morissette’s love of Eastern music pops up on the claustrophobic “Numb” (lush violin work courtesy of Lily Haydn) or the shimmering “Guru” (a Target bonus exclusive) featuring a rap from her current beau Souleye (real name Mario Treadway, father of her son). The appeal of Souleye’s rap, which genuinely works rather than fails, is based solely on the accessibility of the ear it greets.

Directed By: Baris Aladag

Still operating her reverse syntax lyrical approach, Morissette recasts her feminist position on the buoyant (if cerebral) “Woman Down,” and gives her take on the “add a drop of water for fame” mentatility on the stinger “Celebrity.” Whereas “Celebrity” is the closest to the classic sneer of “You Oughta Know,” it’s the soothing “’Til You” and burst of contradictory bright melody on “Spiral” that accentuate Morissette’s consolidation of her brand of alterna-pop she’s been at since 2002’s Under Rug Swept (Maverick).
As seminal as Jagged remains, Morissette's recorded several records that outweigh that one and deal in the harsher realm of human intimacy we rarely wish to delve into. Havoc and Bright Lights is a fantastic, defiant addition to Morissette’s plentiful discography. Four and a half out of five stars.-QH

[Editor's Note: Havoc and Bright Lights is available physically & digitally in several formats:  deluxe, Amazon, iTunes, Target, and Japanese editions all include new tracks not on the standard issue of the LP. This review was on the Target version of Havoc and Bright Lights Visit for further information on the variety of formats.-QH]

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