Friday, 10 October 2008

Album Review: Ani DiFranco - Red Letter Year

Given Ms DiFranco’s impressive back catalogue (twenty studio albums in eighteen years), it would be easy to dismiss her latest release, Red Letter Year, as a self-indulgent attempt to simply keep the rock rolling. However, the evident dedication has paid off and resulted in yet another fresh-and-inspired-sounding record.

The songs themselves utilise a structure much favoured by the Buffalo-born chanteuse; metaphor-heavy melodic poetry, set to intriguing off-beat musical riffs. Lyrically, themes chop and change and interweave at each bar, combining informed political opinion with colourful life experiences and delicate observations. Recent motherhood and a happy love life has evidently provided a kind of serenity, demonstrated in Present/Infant and Smiling Underneath, which entice the listener into sharing her good mood, whilst the title track expresses her bitterness at the American government.

With this latest offering we find that DiFranco’s style has matured and settled, resulting in an overall fuller and tighter-produced sound. There are some tracks which allow hardcore fans to reminisce over old-school Ani chord structures and melodies - the subtle, Star Matter, and the cosy, Way Tight, provide soft-interludes to the predominately band-driven melodies, showing off her signature acoustic guitar style in all its glory. The ability to stretch her unique genre to further horizons is also demonstrated, adding a host of new styles to her already brimming repertoire. The funkadelic, Emancipated Minor, is a prime example of this, featuring the use of an upbeat backing track set to relatively dark lyrics.

Hectic touring schedules combined with passionate activism promotions and a new family, make you wonder how she finds the time to write, record, and produce a record every year, whilst still making them pertinent and influential for millions of fans around the globe. Who knows? But from the sounds of this one, she’s got plenty more left in her.


Laura Adlington

Release Date: 29/09/08 Label ADA

No comments: