Alanis Morissette - Such Pretty Forks in the Road
Jul 30, 2020
I listened to this kind of a while ago and did not know it had not been officially released until now.

It is impossible to discuss the career and art of Alanis Morissette without somehow mentioning 1995’s titanic ‘Jagged Little Pill’. The album was so massive that everything Morissette releases after will be compared to it critically, even if it is now impossible to match it commercially. Perhaps with the exception of 1998’s ‘Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie’, Morissette’s five albums that have succeeded ‘Pill’ have largely failed to match the melodic excellence and lyrical greatness that made it such a success. On ‘Such Pretty Forks in the Road’ is her most natural album in decades and shows that although she will never leave the massive shadow of her breakthrough album, she is content with that. Morissette sounds older and wiser, and the result is a record that is finally worth discussing on its own merit.

After several albums-worth of trying, Morissette finally sounds comfortable in the modern take of alt-rock that she has been attempting for the last couple albums, and while it is by no means earth-shattering, ‘Rocks’ features the best sonics on an Alanis album in quite some time. Furthermore, buried in the rock instrumentals, there is almost an R&B or soul influence in the music, especially her slightly different singing style, that has never existed in her music before. Overall, while the compositions get the job done, it is the lyrics and vocals, as always with Morissette’s music, that carry the record.

The reliably blunt lyrics of Morissette are in tow on ‘Forks’, which like albums from Fiona Apple or The Chicks, makes the record a fitting experience for the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. On lead single “Reasons I Drink”, she addresses past trauma as she sings, The reasons I tell everybody I'm fine even though I am not”. After hearing Morissette famously reflect on these things with songs like “You Oughta Know”, it is interesting to hear an older perspective all these years later. Other tracks show how her lyrical style has not completely shifted; on “Nemesis”, she writes, “Change, you are my nemesis, transition, I hold my breath”, as she reflects on her struggles with the changes brought on by life. Especially in a COVID-ridden world, the sentiment on the song is impactful and relatable.

Like the vast majority of Morissette’s later output, the biggest problem with ‘Forks’ is that it really is not excellent or groundbreaking in any way. Other, younger women in soft rock or indie like Snail Mail or Courtney Barrett create music that is more interesting with more introspective lyrics and better melodies. While Morissette is clearly trying more than ever to include herself in that group and she is doing better than she has in many years, it still feels like everything she does she is banking on her name recognition from ‘Jagged Little Pill’. In other words, Alanis’s autopilot is still running, but it has been turned down a bit.

Especially with the great rock albums coming out over the last year, it is unlikely many aside from her biggest fans will resist Alanis Morissette’s ‘Such Pretty Forks in the Road’. Morissette provides great narratives through her songs, and she still sings great, but aside from some improvements she continues to make rather uninteresting music. The prerelease singles along with “Nemesis” are the best possible productions of modern Alanis tracks, but nothing else is very essential even in the scope of 2020. The one thing that is fascinating and may have importance in Morissette’s later work is the more soulful approach to her vocals and instrumentals that could provide a new artistic direction in the future. Until then, nothing too riveting here.
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