The Storm Before the Calm

Alanis Morissette

Epiphany/Thirty Tigers, 2022

http://alanis.com

REVIEW BY: Peter Piatkowski

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 07/11/2022

When Alanis Morissette released her breakthrough album Jagged Little Pill in 1995, she was anointed as the voice of a generation.

That record was a cathartic deluge of fury. The album was also massive hit, selling over 30 million copies, and became a definitive album of the mid-1990s. Her pointed and pissed-off lyrics told tales of betrayal, of unrequited love, and of frustration with being a young woman in the mid-1990s. Morissette became a pop poetess, a disciple of artists like Patti Smith, Joni Mitchell, and Joan Jett. Jagged Little Pillmy_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 became a seminal alternative-rock album, an important milestone of the post-grunge music movement.

But Morisette’s anger dissipated as the years went on, and her sound changed, as she settled into Laurel Canyon-style singer-songwriter pop. After Jagged Little Pill, Morissette released albums that found the singer crooning much softer sounds. Still, little would prepare listeners for the ambient sounds of Morissette’s latest album, The Storm Before the Calm, a collaboration with downtempo music producer Dave Harrington. It can be a bewildering record with Morissette being accompanied by ponderous, precious, pretty music. Though it’s a tasteful record, The Storm Before the Calm feels a bit like a novelty album or filler until she releases a proper rock album.

The ethereal songs feel like the score of a very serious documentary. Sure, the music can be moving -– Harrington and Morissette can craft a decent melody – but overall, Morissette’s reduced to an instrument on Harrington’s soporific soundscape. Her distinct, keening howl -– which roared with angst and outrage some 25 years ago on her classic alt-rock hits -– has been tamed; instead, she’s like a vocal ghost, haunting these productions with celestial vocalizing.

None of the songs are bad -– and there some inspired moments amongst these sometimes-stultifying tunes, “Mania - Resting In The Fire” is a lively, funky tune that feels like a jolt of electricity with its buzzy synths and propulsive drumming, which brings to mind some of Morissette’s older music -– and the intention is admirable, with Morissette centering the importance of mental health and healing on her new album (it’s available for streaming on the mediation app, Calm). But the songs aren’t distinct enough from each other nor is the album free from ambient cliches (soft world music flourishes dress much of the album’s songs). Harrington and Morissette hit some great notes, but it’s just not enough to lift The Storm Before Calm from its sleepiness.

Rating: B-

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