Exclusive Review: Alanis Morissette's Bold New 'Flavors'

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A few weeks ago I got a call from one of my producers Guy Sigsworth saying that he’d nearly finished the project he, and his colleague Andy Page, have been working on for the majority of 2007 - the brand new Alanis Morissette album ‘Flavors of Entanglement’. Guy asked if I would pop over to his studio to have an album playback and share my thoughts. I was really excited, partly because I didn’t really know what to expect.

When ‘Jagged Little Pill’ came out in 1995 I was 14, and it swiftly became one of the most important albums for me alongside Joni Mitchell’s ‘Blue’ and Tori Amos’ ‘Little Earthquakes’. I loved their honesty, their melodies and their strength. Skip forward to Autumn 2006 and I was working with Guy on ‘Winter’s Coming’, the closing song for my debut Temposhark album. Alanis had just approached him to see if he’d be interested in collaborating.

One year on, I arrive at Guy’s studio in West London. He reminds me that by now they’ve produced and co-written well over twenty songs! In this one afternoon I hear 22 songs in total, and as each song went by, it was like falling in love with Alanis all over again.

Four highlights for me were ‘Citizen Of The Planet’ which starts off with intriguing lyrics that twist and turn around a captivating melody before hurtling into one of the best choruses of her career - it’s just MASSIVE and her voice cuts right through you... Another gem called ‘Madness’ is spell binding in its beauty, and actually a really long song at over six minutes if I remember correctly, but unusually it didn’t feel long at all! I could’ve listened to that one over and over again...

‘Straitjacket’ is another powerful track that has stuck in my head, with genius lyrics and great melodic hooks... whilst my favourite of all the songs is called ‘Torch’. It’s just the most touching, almost devastating, dedication to the end of a relationship and the things you miss most about your day-to-day life with a partner.

And it was on hearing ‘Torch’, that I remembered why Alanis is such an important voice. She is so good at channelling her subconscious, those true thoughts most people hide. She can take those deeply private emotions and translate them in a simple, easy-to-relate-to way; putting into words what so many of us feel. This new collection of songs takes you on a serious emotional journey, across many highs and lows, and is possibly her best song writing since ‘Jagged Little Pill’ and 'Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie'. It’s just so easy to connect with – the end of a relationship, the value of childhood friends, complicated family ties and all kinds of emotional ‘entanglements’.

Robert's review of Alanis continues after the jump!

Having heard these new songs, the first thing that struck me was Alanis’ voice. It seriously took my breath away. She sounds invigorated and consistently on top form. The diversity of her voice really comes across in what must be some of her best vocal performances recorded. In some songs it just sounds like she’s flying, the vocals are spot on! And the song writing really delivers – the lyrics are fresh and the melodies take a whole new direction.

As you'd expect from Mr Sigsworth, the production and arrangements are so unique, no-one else could make music sound this beautifully compelling. The wall-of-guitars in one track is like nothng I've ever heard. I bet that someone like Metallica or Marilyn Manson will be calling Guy up next to get that exact sound! There’s an epic quality to many of the tracks, making them perfect for film soundtracks - one even sounded a bit like a James Bond '007' theme tune! Any of the 20+ songs that don't end up on the final album tracklisting must find a good home on soundtracks, they're all worthy of maximum exposure.

‘Flavors of Entanglement’ is without a doubt a career highlight. It was almost like a new discovery for me, or a re-discovery, of a voice that had been such a big influence on the teenage me. In the same way that Madonna’s ‘Ray Of Light’ with William Orbit delivered us a new perspective of Madonna, Guy’s and Alanis’ meeting of minds has produced a fresh, classy, gutsy and uplifting masterpiece that will stand the test of time.

‘Flavors Of Entanglement’ will be released in Spring 2008 on Warner. Alanis Morissette will be performing new songs from the album on her USA live tour from January 25th until March 18th 2008 with Match Box 20, for full dates and ticket info, visit www.alanis.com or her MySpace (which is where the photo for this review came from).

Learn more about the music of Guy Sigsworth at his MySpace or entry at Wikipedia. Have a listen to Guy's previous band project Frou Frou. Plus, read a behind the scenes interview with Guy and Andy about 'Flavors' at Arbiter.co.uk

December 31, 2007 in Guest Blogger: Rob Diament, Heads Up, Music News, Music Reviews, Pop, Rare & Exclusive, Temposhark | Permalink | Comments (24)

Traveling Music

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"The Motorcycle Diaries" is an inspiring new movie by director Walter Sallas based on the true story about a motorcycle trip 23-year-old Che Guevara made with his friend Alberto Granadado in the early '50s. The two friends traveled from their home in Argentina 8,000 miles in eight months all the way across South America.

The experiences Guavara had during his journey put him in touch with different sides of humanity, which inspired him to stand up against the establishment and change the world. More than fifty years later, he has become one of the most iconic revolutionaries in South American history, who has changed the course of nations.

You might be familiar with Guevara's famous beret portrait that is printed on t-shirts, stickers and flags. Even Madonna took a cue from this image for the sleeve art for "American Life."

Besides the movie's outstanding cinematic achievement, one of the main attractions of the flick must be the very sexy Gael García Bernal. The New Yorker's Anthony Lane put it well when he wrote in his movie review that "Bernal is so preposterously beautiful that all his movies tend, at a certain point, to stop whatever they're supposed to be doing and gawk."

The original soundtrack for "The Motorcycle Diaries" was written and performed by composer Gustavo Santaolalla who has been called the guru of Latin alternative musical production. The Argentine previously wrote the scores for "Amores Perros" and "21 Grams."

But Santaolalla is mostly known for his success as a music producer. He won a Latin Grammy for Café Tacuba's "Revés/Yosoy" (Best Rock Album of 2000) and has been a long-time collaborator of Latin music sensation Juanes.

Santaolalla's affinity with rock music gives "The Motorcycle Diaries" soundtrack a very modern-day feel. This is at first a bit odd because this story is set in 1952, but the musical bridge to this day and age is appropriate given the influence Guevara's leftist ideology still has today.

Santaolalla includes electric guitars ("Zambita" and "Cabalgando"), tender acoustic instrumentation ("Sendero") and strings to create evocative dreamy landscapes ("Lago Frias" and "Chichina"). Highlight is the gorgeous "De Usuahia A La Quiaca" with acoustic guitar and Andes flute. Brazilian singer Jorge Dexler concludes the CD with the soothing pop ballad "Al Otro Lado Del Rio."

You don't have to have seen the movie to enjoy this soundtrack. The album is as diverse and provoking as the landscapes Guevara and Granadado traveled on their journey through South America.

October 2, 2004 in Music Reviews | Permalink | Comments (23)

Review: Junior Jack "Trust It"

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Some say Italians do it better, while others argue just the opposite. DJ Junior Jack proves there is nothing wrong with a bit of attitude. This Italian stallion is on top of his game and recently released his full-length debut “Trust It" (iTunes link).

Junior Jack, born Vito Lucente, was born in Italy but moved to Brussels, Belgium as a teenager. In the avant-garde Belgium club scene he submersed himself in different house genres. He quickly developed a love for stylish disco house. Not your average, run-of-the-mill house beats, but fierce baselines combined with the frivolity of disco music.

After launching his own record label, he put out his first single “Thrill Me” in February 2002. The tune became a global sensation that put Jack on the map as a talented DJ, remixer and producer of dance music.

More than two years later, Jack finally releases his long-overdue debut. On the 16 tracks of “Trust It” he injects listeners with a heavy dose of his celebratory disco house. Ferocious baselines, hooky choruses and Mediterranean textures are all part of his formula.

Highlights include “E-Samba,” an infectious Latin-flavored track that was a summer club hit in 2003. "Stupidisco" is another delicious track that brings disco back to the dance floor.

The odd coupling of The Cure’s Robert Smith' vocals and Jack's fierce beats on the chart topping single "Da Hype" creates a vibe that is hard to ignore. Jack experiments with a more subdued sound on “Alone” and the modest “Depression.”

“Trust It" is a first-class house CD that has summer and sexy written all over it.

August 5, 2004 in Music Reviews | Permalink | Comments (6)

These Killers Are Sexy

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The British pop charts have been a hot bed of some of the summer's most popular new gems. Franz Ferdinand, Grand National, Snow Patrol, Keane and Scissor Sisters are some of the bands that are vying to be this season's breakthrough act.

The Killers are one of the bands that stick out from the pack. Based in Las Vegas, Nevada, this band has been smoldering the British airwaves with their catchy synth rock.

It often seems that gays have no interest in rock music. They tend to change stations for the genre's crunchy sounds, sexist lyrics and smelly lead singers.

But The Killers' debut album "Hot Fuss" (iTunes link) is an exception to the unwritten "not-intended-for-gays" rule. Their gay-friendly '80s inspired sounds are reminiscent of New Order, The Smiths and the gayest straight band in history, Duran Duran (who are prepping a comeback in October).

The band gladly incorporates these influences in its music. In fact, the group name was taken from an old New Order video.

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The Killers got their start in their hometown Las Vegas in 2002. After 22 year-old singer Brandon Flowers (how gay can a last name get?) was dropped from his previous band, he grouped up with David Keuning (guitars), Mark Stoermer (bass) and Ronnie Vannucci (drums).

The guys started writing and rehearsing songs in a small desert garage. In 120 degree temperatures heat, the group cooked up some of its catchy tunes that are now the basis of "Hot Fuss."

The album has an old school, rock glam quality with grand choruses ("Mr. Brightside"), sweeping intros ("Natalie) and infectious guitar riffs ("Somebody Told Me").

The single "Somebody Told Me" has an unexpected gay twist to it. Singer Flowers croons about an androgynous girlfriend, "Well somebody told me, You had a boyfriend. Who looks like a girlfriend. That I had in February of last year."

"Hot Fuss" is a refreshing debut from an energetic new band that is more pop than it initially looks.

August 4, 2004 in Music Reviews | Permalink | Comments (52)

Stone Cold Angie

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Soul singer Angie Stone has received mixed reviews in the mighty music media for her newest album "Stone Love." This does not comes as a surprise. The album is an uninspired blend of soul, R&B and even rap. After first listen, you immediately wonder what happened to the wonderful nu-soul voice that instantly captured listeners on her debut "Black Diamond."

This gem needs to roughen up a bit. Stone should emphasize her sublime voice instead of frilly productions and odd collaborations (Snoop Dogg makes a cameo appearance, yawn). She temporarily bounces back to greatness with the help of the talented British duo Floetry (on "My Man") and Anthony Hamilton (on "Stay For A While").

In this week's issue of the Advocate, Stone talks about the rumors that she supposedly made anti-gay remarks at a concert in 2002. The controversy was quickly forgotten after she performed the club anthem "I Wish I Didn't Miss You" at New York's gay pride that year. "I’ve learned over the years that people are people, and the thing that I love is, I’m accepted on all fronts," she told the Advocate. How wonderful.

It is clear that Stone is lacking the originality in words and music that once made her a star. Singers like Van Hunt, Floetry and Ricky Fante now carry the nu-soul torch that Stone proudly lit five years ago.

July 7, 2004 in Music Reviews | Permalink | Comments (2)