When Alanis Morissette broke through with her seminal album ‘Jagged Little Pill’ in 1995, she became an emblem for female rage. Young women might have celebrated her for that, but others found it unbecoming. If being rightfully angry about the world in your early twenties (Morissette was 21 when the album was released) is seen as unladylike, you imagine society will hardly be pleased that the Canadian star, back at 46 with her first album in eight years, is still just as outspoken as she was 25 years ago.
‘Such Pretty Forks In The Road’ is quintessential Morissette in that it offers a no-holds-barred look at her thoughts on subjects such as mental health, addiction, the expectations placed on women and sexual abuse. Her lyrics are as cutting and precise as ever, able to provoke the strongest of emotional responses with seemingly the simplest turns of phrase. ‘Diagnosis’, for example, couples spare melancholy piano lines with the musician’s crushing lines about her experiences with postpartum depression. “Everyone around me is trying to help as much as they can,” she sings at one point. “But I’m alone in this meltdown of nervousness.”
Morissette’s acute writing style envelops you in her thoughts and experiences. On ‘Sandbox Love’, she explores having a healthy relationship with sex as a survivor of abuse, bright guitars glimmering around her. It’s both an ode to the healing power of love and a reminder of the hold that trauma can have over us. The epic string-laden swells of ‘Pedestal’ accompany Morissette as she lays out all of the insecurities she feels around her marriage (“One day I won’t be craved the way you crave me now”). The subjects on this album might seem more mature, but they’re relatable to people of all generations.
While ‘Such Pretty Forks…’ is packed with peaks, it’s not without its troughs. ‘Missing The Miracle’ features some neat lyrical observations (“You see the figure skater / I fear the ice is thin”) but musically it feels drab and uninspired. ‘Ablaze’, meanwhile, is a heartfelt letter to Morissette’s kids, but the arpeggiated guitar melodies that weave between chord chugs become tired quite quickly.
At the other end of the scale, though, there’s ‘Reasons I Drink’, the album’s best song. On it, Morissette explores her relationship with addiction, backing herself up with a deceptively jaunty piano line that’s impossible to get out of your head. “Nothing can give me a break from this torture like they do,” she cries in her inimitable yodel, and you’re reminded of her power: one built around honesty and authenticity.
‘Such Pretty Forks…’ might not be flawless, but in that way, it’s true to Morissette’s depiction of life – something that’s often messy and tough, but worth sticking with.
Release date: July 31