Alanis Morissette has been absent for some time, aside from the multiple re-releases of the incredible Jagged Little Pill for its recent anniversaries. However, one of Canada’s best exports has returned with new material for the first time since 2012, the mature, piano-led sound of Such Pretty Forks In The Road.
Opening with ‘Smiling’, a song about perseverance in the face of calamity. “This is the first wave of the white flag” resounds in the chorus before bringing around to an overwhelming feeling of positivity. This is Alanis purely distilled into a single track, a potentially heart-breaking subject tackled with almost effortless optimism.
‘Ablaze’ follows from this positive feeling with a beautiful musical love letter to her children. This could have easily fallen into saccharine schmaltz, but some clever lyrical turns, especially in the chorus, and some hard-hitting life advice stops this from occurring, and is an excellent example of where Alanis is at in 2020.
Onto ‘Reasons I Drink’, which isn’t as bad as it sounds from the title, but instead opening with clicking fingers and a chipper piano melody. Through this lens is an observation of the world as it stands and taking comfort in surviving all of the bad that comes with it. Then comes the heart-rending ‘Diagnosis’, essentially a break-up song for 2020, if anyone needs one.
The sound swings back up for ‘Missing The Miracle’, and continuing the trend of heavily relatable lyrics, Alanis imparts the melancholy that knowing someone that you’re close to but couldn’t be more different from, and noticing that in your disagreements you miss that the best thing is that you’re together.
‘Losing The Plot’ brings in more instruments for a more dramatic sounding affair, a sound which lasts through ‘Reckoning’ as well. Violins, guitar riffs, wistful vocals, and drums mark this interlude of energy. Once again, as a continued atmosphere in Such Pretty Forks In The Road, one listen isn’t enough to appreciate the messages being conveyed here.
‘Sandbox Love’ is far brighter in mood than most other tracks here, it brings in an upbeat drum rhythm, and a heavily echoed guitar riff fading in and out of the mix. In amongst a mostly melancholic work, it’s a welcome surprise to find an almost quintessential summer track.
This uplifting mood doesn’t last as we reach the final stretch. Both ’Her’ and ‘Nemesis’ both confront mature themes of confronting change and seeking help when you need it. Both tackle this in different ways, with the latter remaining optimistic. This is an introspective album, even in comparison to her prior work, a maturing of sound and subject matter.
‘Pedestal’ ends the album on a distinctly sombre note, tying everything together in a sense. Her powerful vocals dominate the violins and swirl together into a hard-hitting ending to an emotional album. Fading out with the final line, “I hope you enjoyed the ride, who wouldn’t?”, and ending the album perfectly, leaving a lasting impression.