Ani Difranco Righteous Babe Records
Heavily grounded agro-femme indie-folk queen Ani Difranco”s ambitious double disc seeks to break apart conventional stereotypes about the two-discers of the present day. One album”s material spread out across to full-lengths and replete with layers of filler caked thick in between the “good tracks.”
Revelling: Reckoning, basically two separate albums sporting all too clever packaging, is her most ambitious to date.
Difranco burns again sparking lines of her own unique poetry, filling lines on her usual topics of rape, feminism and her open bisexuality. Nonetheless her guitar work is befitting, and per typical on each album that has come out since Sixteen Stone she too employs the orchestral arrangements. “Marrow,” the fifth track on Revelling is a harmlessly in the relational diatribe. Difranco”s alienation from a former lover comes across in her lyrics “you were smoking me weren”t you?/between your yellow fingers.” Indeed, sing it sweet sister. Ani utilizes an interesting vocal complexity throughout, harmonizing with her guitar and taking her voice out of the safe middle of her range. Notes slip out of song, and into gutteral growls, and into high-pitched grinds, all for emphasis, there is no lack of emotion here.
Unlike other everyday rock folk heroes with recent releases Revelling does not forsake Ani”s origins. She continues her songsmith-ery with layers of sounds at times, filled with clarinets, flutes, pianos and organs in addition to her usual stock of guitars, bass and drums.
Difranco stretches to include and exclude the conventional and unconventional aspects to her recording. Revelling”s “Kazoointoit” is shored by processed vocals and clips from an answering machine, two horns, drums, basses and a kazoo. Incidentally, Difranco doesn”t play the kazoo on the track, but she does play almost everything else.
“What How When Where (Why Who)” is one of the more interesting tracks on Revelling. The vocal lines are punchy repetitions of the five interrogative words in the title. Musically, it revolves around dissonant jazz chords and equally jazzy melodies. The tune breaks into a mid-song jam session where a trumpet solo continues the dissonant jazz overture.
Reckoning opens with a downtrodden n politik slant at the capitalistic “plague” of Reagan and Bush, and the singer claims she is both “HIV” and “AIDS.” On first track “Your Next Bold Move,” Difranco is lethargic with the notion of waking up in a world of right-wing capitalism, and her left-wing rooted persona finds nothing but alienation.
Revelling and Reckoning are two very different albums musically. Less experimentation and folky grooves dominate Reckoning, where Revelling is excessively hardlining away from Difranco”s tamer self. The juxtaposition in the themes of the different albums is obvious, and likely intended by song-writing machine Difranco. Her unique folk flavor will continue to find a place in indie-music circles as long as this righteous babe can strum a guitar.
However, it is unfortunate that Revelling: Reckoning does not shake the conventional notion that accompanies the double disc-er. While Difranco does many things well, on both albums, and the themes vary enough to warrant two CDs, the amount of material on the discs is a bit much. Revelling and Reckoning isn”t a disappointment, it is instead simply excessive. Too many songs, as per usual with the double albums, and it could have been pared down easily into one incredible record.