January 25, 2005

Shortcut - Ani DiFranco

After putting out 15 full-length studio albums in just as many years, one might expect a considerable amount of exhaustion to come from an artist's music. However, fans of indie/rock/folk/feminist/activist/radical Ani DiFranco have no cause to worry, as shown by her most recent release, Knuckle Down.

It is every bit another DiFranco record, encompassing a wide range of musical genres from acoustic folk and country to funk. Though the record displays the usual plucky, catchy guitars, it also shows some musical experimentation. DiFranco invited other artists to play violin, piano, and even to whistle on some tracks. To further diversify the album, DiFranco set one of her rambling poems, "Parameters," to subtle music.

DiFranco has also retained the same lyrical precision of her previous efforts, reflecting on family matters and her recent divorce. On "Manhole," DiFranco refers to the split with a wry sense of irony: "But after my dreaded beheading/I tied that sucker back on with a string/and I guess I'm pretty different now/considering." And on "Callous," DiFranco is the epitome of the title as she spits each lyric at the listener: "And then that look that you gave me/sent me rushing through guilt's door/I'd already started to feel callous/like I really should care more."

Immensely personal and poignant, Knuckle Down is another inspired and intense album from Ani DiFranco. Even if DiFranco senses a difference in herself, the unparalleled originality that keeps fans wanting more shows no signs of slowing down.