Alanis Morissette

So-Called Chaos

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Alanis Morissette has often written about affairs of the heart, but she's rarely written from the perspective of being in love, and she's certainly never recorded an album where she seems so in love and at peace as she has with her fourth album, So-Called Chaos. She doesn't hide her romance with Canadian actor Ryan Reynolds, perhaps best known as the title role of National Lampoon's Van Wilder, thanking him in the liner notes and alluding to their relationship throughout this romance-heavy record. There are still strands of bitterness, cynicism, and jealously, yet they feel like unfinished business that she's slowly putting to rest. Nowhere is this more true than on "This Grudge," which for all intents and purposes looks like the final chapter in the tale of "The Relationship," the one that fueled "You Oughta Know," since she acknowledges that she's held "this grudge" for "14 years, 30 minutes, 15 seconds" and through "11 songs" and "four full journals" (and, given Alanis' penchant for confession and single-minded obsession, chances are she's not exaggerating). She's not just leaving this relationship behind, she's maturing, and there's a calm directness to much of her writing that leads her to both open-hearted love songs and, occasionally, a sly sense of humor (as on the sardonic opener, "Eight Easy Steps"). Morissette still has a tendency to overwrite and then deliver these tangled tenses in exceedingly odd phrasing -- the chorus to "Knees of My Bees" doesn't sound much like "tremble and buckle," it sounds for all the world like "jambalaya, Bucko!" -- but that's simply par for the course with Alanis. What's unexpected, though, is the confidence of her music, which recaptures some of the vigor of Jagged Little Pill, as it's brighter, denser, catchier than either of its immediate predecessors, and boasts her most assured singing yet. Even with all this, it's not heavy on immediate singles -- the first, "Everything," takes awhile to have its hook settle in -- but as an overall record, it's her most satisfying since her blockbuster breakthrough.

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