PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.

Music

Ani Difranco: Reveling/Reckoning

Peter Bryant

Ani Difranco

Reveling/Reckoning

Label: Righteous Babe
US Release Date: 2001-04-10
Amazon
iTunes

When I was a punk rock kid, I lived in constant fear of my favorite punk bands "selling out". It seems fans of Ani Difranco have a lot in common with punk kids, in that they are constantly on the lookout for some evidence of her "selling out" to the mainstream. With every album she releases and every big event that occurs in her life, legions of angry fans scream sellout.

In order to quell all fears, this is not Ani's sellout album. If anything this is a step in the opposite direction, away from the accessible music of her previous works (Dilate, Little Plastic Castles) and into a more experimental territory. This double disc set, Reveling/Reckoning is jazzy and funky. This is by no means a double album either, instead this is two separate albums packaged and released together. Reveling is much more fast-paced and funky than Reckoning and captures some of the intensity of Ani's previous efforts. Reckoning is slower, more acoustic and drawn out, and has less intensity than much of Ani's repertoire.

Still neither disc is as emotionally intense as Ani's earlier music. The lyrical quality is still top-notch and in terms of strictly musical criticism, some of the jazzier songs are very good, but all of the songs, except a few standouts, lack any sense of emotional outpouring. Much of the set seems forced and fake, as if Ani is now playing the role of Ani the pissed off poet instead of living it. Songs like "sick of me" and "reckoning" are slow and lack interesting ideas or emotions. She relies on her ability to make strange metaphors by incorporating poetry and cultural touchstones, but she is missing any real conviction on most of the songs.

Ani Difranco has such immense musical and lyrical ability, that despite the lack of a cohesive and amazing album, there are still a few standouts on both of the discs. On Reveling, "Garden of Simple" is a remarkable song that reminds listeners that despite the weakness of these albums, Ani hasn't lost complete touch with her emotions. Lyrics like "The best minds of my generation / Can't make bail" allude to Allen Ginsburg and the memories of people who were too smart for this culture, who by rejecting it, push themselves into corners that they cannot get out of. Musically, the song is sparse, but comfortably sparse. It is just Ani and her acoustic guitar, and like Woody Guthrie, her machine kills fascists every time she lets it out. She plays the guitar like she is playing percussion, keeping beat while allowing lines of melody to float throughout the song, almost punctuating every point she sings.

Another impressive song on the set is "subdivision", off Reckoning. This is her political point for the album and it's a shame that this is the one of the only songs that really addresses any sort of political position. She admits her own apathy on this song with lyrics like "I remember the first time I saw someone / Lying on the cold street / I thought: I can't just walk past here / This just can't be true / But I learned by example/ T o just keep moving my feet / It's amazing the things we learn to do." These lyrics ring true in the ears of the listener, and remind every city-dweller of the first time a homeless person blocked the sidewalk. These lyrics bring back the memories of not knowing what to do when someone asks you for money, and quickly becoming immune to the saddest story that could be told for a quarter. The piano on this song lends a layer of emotion that the guitar is incapable of conveying. Punctuating the guitar's sparse chords with complementing lines of melody, the piano adds a texture that adds to the song's feeling of apathy and helplessness. The beat is kept mostly by Ani's guitar, but the shakers in the background along with the repetitive cymbal has marching quality to it. It allows the listener to feel like Ani is leading a journey across her memory, pointing out all the things that bother her but can't be changed.

Ani needs to realize that she isn't a jazz or soul singer. Her voice is rough and gravely and despite any artistic inspiration, her voice works for folk and not for jazz. This two disc is commendable because she is trying to push the boundries of what her fans expect from her. Unfortunaley, this set ultimately fails because it's a cheap imitation of what Ani Difranco wants to be, rather than an original manifestation of her own characteristics and artistic talent.

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

ABBA's 'Super Trouper' at 40

ABBA's winning – if slightly uneven – seventh album Super Trouper is reissued on 45rpm vinyl for its birthday.

Music

The Mountain Goats Find New Sonic Inspiration on 'Getting Into Knives'

John Darnielle explores new sounds on his 19th studio album as the Mountain Goats—and creates his best record in years with Getting Into Knives.

Music

The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 60-41

PopMatters' coverage of the 2000s' best recordings continues with selections spanning Swedish progressive metal to minimalist electrosoul.

Books

Is Carl Neville's 'Eminent Domain' Worth the Effort?

In Carl Neville's latest novel, Eminent Domain, he creates complexities and then shatters them into tiny narrative bits arrayed along a non-linear timeline.

Film

Horrors in the Closet: Horrifying Heteronormative Scapegoating

The artificial connection between homosexuality and communism created the popular myth of evil and undetectable gay subversives living inside 1950s American society. Film both reflected and refracted the homophobia.

Music

Johnny Nash Refused to Remember His Place

Johnny Nash, part rock era crooner, part Motown, and part reggae, was too polite for the more militant wing of the Civil Rights movement, but he also suffered at the hands of a racist music industry that wouldn't market him as a Black heartthrob. Through it all he was himself, as he continuously refused to "remember his place".

Music

John Hollenbeck Completes a Trilogy with 'Songs You Like a Lot'

The third (and final?) collaboration between a brilliant jazz composer/arranger, the Frankfurt Radio Big Band, vocalists Kate McGarry and Theo Bleckman, and the post-1950 American pop song. So great that it shivers with joy.

Music

The Return of the Rentals After Six Years Away

The Rentals release a space-themed album, Q36, with one absolute gem of a song.

Music

Matthew Murphy's Post-Wombats Project Sounds a Lot Like the Wombats (And It's a Good Thing)

While UK anxiety-pop auteurs the Wombats are currently hibernating, frontman Matthew "Murph" Murphy goes it alone with a new band, a mess of deprecating new earworms, and revived energy.

Music

The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 80-61

In this next segment of PopMatters' look back on the music of the 2000s, we examine works by British electronic pioneers, Americana legends, and Armenian metal provocateurs.

Music

In the Tempest's Eye: An Interview with Surfer Blood

Surfer Blood's 2010 debut put them on the map, but their critical sizzle soon faded. After a 2017 comeback of sorts, the group's new record finds them expanding their sonic by revisiting their hometown with a surprising degree of reverence.

Music

Artemis Is the Latest Jazz Supergroup

A Blue Note supergroup happens to be made up of women, exclusively. Artemis is an inconsistent outing, but it dazzles just often enough.

Books

Horrors in the Closet: A Closet Full of Monsters

A closet full of monsters is a scary place where "straight people" can safely negotiate and articulate their fascination and/or dread of "difference" in sexuality.

Music

'Wildflowers & All the Rest' Is Tom Petty's Masterpiece

Wildflowers is a masterpiece because Tom Petty was a good enough songwriter by that point to communicate exactly what was on his mind in the most devastating way possible.

Music

Jazz Composer Maria Schneider Takes on the "Data Lords" in Song

Grammy-winning jazz composer Maria Schneider released Data Lords partly as a reaction to her outrage that streaming music services are harvesting the data of listeners even as they pay musicians so little that creativity is at risk. She speaks with us about the project.

Music

The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 100-81

PopMatters' best albums of the 2000s begin with a series of records that span epic metal, ornate indie folk, and a terrifying work of electronic music.

Books

The Power of Restraint in Sophie Yanow, Paco Roca, and Elisa Macellari's New Graphic Novels

The magical quality that makes or breaks a graphic novel lies somewhere in that liminal space in which art and literature intersect.

Books

'People of the City' Is an Unrelenting Critique of Colonial Ideology and Praxis

Cyprian Ekwensi's People of the City is a vivid tale of class struggle and identity reclamation in the shadows of colonialism's reign.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.