Ani DiFranco

To the Teeth

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With the release of To the Teeth, it has been ten studio albums of original material in ten years for Ani DiFranco, and she sounds tired. The singer/songwriter has always had ample reserves of anger and criticism, some of which she has directed at herself, but here her self-questioning is unusually intense. As usual, a couple of songs deal with political topics, but much of the album is given over to songs in which the singer looks at her life and career unhappily. "Going Once" and "Swing" are in the third person, though the characters seem self-identified, with the "she" in the former wondering "how did I get here/Without even knowing where I was going?," while in the latter "she" speaks of weariness, dread, and nagging voices inside her head that say "You suck." "Freakshow," a metaphor for the performer's life, is almost unrelentingly critical, its only relief coming from the comfort that the life of a traveling entertainer is better than being stuck in a hometown. The culmination of all this comes with "Wish I May," which she closes by singing, "I don't think I am strong enough/To do this much longer." She also says she wishes the song were longer, and that wish may have been expressed in the album's musical arrangements. Employing horns (including Maceo Parker's saxophone) and other embellishments, DiFranco has written a series of downbeat riff tunes and stretched them out, in some cases to six or seven minutes, often with extended instrumental codas after the lyrics have been sung. As usual, she gives her audience a warts-and-all portrait of her current view of herself and the world. Longtime fans will find the result compelling (while perhaps fearing for their favorite's future), but this is probably not the place to start your Ani DiFranco collection.

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