Ani DiFranco Gives Reprieve
So Ani releases her eighteenth.
One would expect DiFranco to confront all the headlining troubles of today, but her latest album, Reprieve, dives underneath to pull out deeper emotional and psychic thoughts, only to hide them again in her lyrics. She sprays her unique fusion of pathos, politics and poetics in each song, giving listeners new reasons to get excited about her music all over again.
Bluesy confessionals are shaded with glittery electronica and some ridiculous keyboard patterns, with heat and waves filling her mixture of artistry, music, politics and poetics in every word.
Layers of instrumentation produce a beautifully committed sound. The texture is thick and involved, creating a sound great enough for a four-piece band, but all 12 tracks harbor the craftsmanship of just two players, DiFranco and bassist Todd Sickafoose.
On top of the tried-and-true guitars, both acoustic and electric, DiFranco is heard on keyboard, drums and various other curios. Sickafoose covers bass, Wurlitzer keyboard, pump organ, piano, “trumpet” and “strings.”
Sickafoose offers a twinge of be-bop lines, sparingly intertwined rhythmically in the atmospheric music. Paired with DiFranco’s dusty voice seeping into every crevice, the words start to hit even harder.
“Everybody put on your gas mask / First leak it out about the President / Then stand up and shout impeachment,” she urges in “Millennium Theater.”
DiFranco spans modern culture, Hiroshima, celebrity cults, nicotine addiction, biotechnology, unfair elections and Enron, and just as her babbling errs on psychotic, she retreats from radicalism and descends to earth.
“Sometimes I see myself / Through the eyes of a stray dog… My whole saga just seems so cheap,” she sings in “In the Margins.”
Of course, Ani wouldn’t be Ani without some blistering piece of mind about the elusiveness and complications of love.
“We coulda loved each other through / But I was afraid of commitment / When it came to you,” she sighs in “Unrequited.”
Reprieve was started early 2005 in New Orleans during a break in DiFranco’s touring schedule. Master recordings were left behind before Hurricane Katrina. DiFranco drove back three days after the levees broke to salvage the music, heading back to her hometown in Buffalo, NY to overdub and perfect with whatever mix of instruments trailed her.
On top of her soulful singing talents and ever-awesome acoustic guitar playing, DiFranco produced the album on her own. A tension between joy and kindness can be heard, producing a clear sound that is uniquely Ani’s. Full of rich melodies and harmonies, DiFranco rolls all her experience and musicianship into one for a fiery delivery amidst a meditative fog.
“It’s the urge to kill something beautiful / Just to hang it on your wall,” she croons.