Alanis Morissette

Flavors of Entanglement

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The running joke goes like this: as soon as Alanis Morissette suffered a heartbreak like she did prior to Jagged Little Pill, she would once again write lyrics as vitriolic as confessional as that 1995 breakthrough. As any tabloid follower knows -- and really, in the new millennium we all follow the tabloids whether we like it or not -- Alanis split from fiancé Ryan Reynolds after the release of 2004's So-Called Chaos, an album that floated joyously on her newfound love, so it's no great stretch to see its 2008 follow-up, Flavors of Entanglement, as its opposite, a classic breakup record. And it is, filled with songs of heartbreak, anger, and regret, along with a healthy dose of self affirmation -- or at least it seems that way, as Alanis' words are harder than ever to parse, a mangled web of garbled syntax, overheated metaphors, and mystifying verbal contortions all requiring too much effort to decode. In that sense, it's a lot like Jagged Little Pill, but musically this is far closer to the muddled mystic worldbeat of Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie, thanks in large part to her collaboration with Guy Sigsworth, best known for his productions with Björk and Madonna. Given his résumé, it should come as no great surprise that Sigsworth gives Flavors of Entanglement some adventurous textures and drum loops, even electronically altered voices on occasion, but this is no dance record; it's a claustrophobic, cluttered adult pop album underpinned by a hazy new age sensibility, best heard (if not best articulated) on "Citizen of the Planet," a thick swirling dirge which serves as an appropriate opening salvo for this dense murk, where the music is almost as impenetrable as the lyrics. Coming after the streamlined Under Rug Swept and light So-Called Chaos, this return to insularity is a bit startling yet it's welcome, both for those who find a personal connection within Alanis' accidentally cryptic confessions and those who like to listen to her ramblings with their mouths agape, as this overspills with emotional and musical dissonance, the kind that made her phenomenal success on Jagged Little Pill improbable and her slow descent into high-end liberal lifestyle music after Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie quite understandable.

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