Album Review: Alanis Morrissette – Such Pretty Forks in the Road

Alanis Morrisette Such Pretty Forks in the Road album cover

When an artist or band hits it big, whether on their debut album or after releasing a few records, several impediments often prevent a follow-up rise to the top.

Remaking that big album or catching lightening in a bottle again proves rather hard. Essentially, the bigger the mountain climbed sometimes leaves no more mountains left to climb. But overexposure also presents an additional barrier.

This, I submit to you, happened to Alanis Morrissette.

Say what you will about Alanis Morrissette, she was the it singer in 1995 and her breakthrough album Jagged Little Pill went multi-platinum eventually selling 33 million copies around the world. What!? Seemed like every song off that album became a hit and Alanis Morrissette settled into an unprecedented stratosphere in terms of popularity… for a while. She’s not everyone’s cup of tea but the freshness of Jagged Little Pill cannot be denied.

So, did you know she’s released six records since Jagged Little Pill including her ninth studio album Such Pretty Forks in the Road out today (July 31)? Nope, not going to result in a tidal wave of popularity but Morrisette – who much to my surprise, jumped from touring smaller club type venues not too long ago and had tour dates set at 20,000 seat amphitheaters for the 25th anniversary of Jagged Little Pill for this summer – just might make some new friends but at least get back into the conscience of those who reminisce about their college years whenever they hear “You Oughta Know.”

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Alanis Morrissette Such Pretty Forks in the Road Album Review

The 11-song 46-minute Such Pretty Forks in the Road represents the longest break between albums for Morrissette, her last coming eight years ago. Like past albums, Such Pretty Forks in the Road more or less brings fans up-to-date on Morissette’s private life. You probably heard Morissette’s former business manager stole more than $5 million from her and you may not have heard she suffered from postpartum depression for nearly a decade.

All that and more guide Such Pretty Forks in the Road which Morrissette filled with quite a bit of melancholy, not necessarily complete sadness but a wistful tone with a few easy-going pop songs. Think curled up under a blanket on a drippy day with one hand in your pocket and the other one holding a cup of hot chocolate.

Morrissette co-wrote all the songs on Such Pretty Forks in the Road which opens with the somewhat paradoxical “Smiling” an impassioned song urging, if not daring you to smile rather than creating the need to smile because of the funereal music. “Ablaze” indeed gets you to smile a bit, a solid pop song that picks up the pace.

“Reasons I Drink” reminds you of why she hit it so big. Honest and forthright, yep, she and most everyone else has their reasons, and along with the great chorus and the fun, hoppy piano “Reasons I Drink” feature some of the gritty turmoil that made Jagged Little Pill a success.

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From there, Such Pretty Forks in the Road turns pretty somber. Morissette wrote “Diagnosis” about her postpartum depression which no doubt many, who have encountered the “baby blues” will fully embrace this track as their own. It’s a sweet song actually but hardly a mood booster.

“Missing the Miracle” keeps the slow pace going with a soft opening piano that crescendos some into a delicate pop song. “Losing the Plot” might lose you at this point if the somber nature of the album hasn’t worn thin but the simple haunting piano chord should keep you dialed if not for the spellbinding effect.

“Reckoning” lets Morissette vent a bit about her thieving business manager, a not so much harsh rebuke but a courtroom address to the jerk outlining how her life has changed forever. “Sandbox Love” lifts Such Pretty Forks in the Road from the heaviness with a straight forward pop sound that has Morissette celebrating…just a little.

“Her” sounds straight out of a musical with the protagonist in mid-crises singing her way towards a final decision. The longest song, “Nemesis” at nearly six minutes takes a different path starting out much like the rest but culminating into art rock reminiscent of Muse. Finally, Such Pretty Forks in the Road concludes with “Pedestal” another gut-wrencher of a song that doesn’t stray at all from the beaten path set forth at the beginning.

Alanis Morissette can surely sing. Her broad, yet delicate and sometimes cold-blooded vocal range unaffected now 25 years after she introduced herself to the world. Such Pretty Forks in the Road contains none of the angst ridden acrimony that still floods the airwaves today but nonetheless tells a story with blunt honesty that keeps Alanis Morissette authentic but still not for everyone.

Grade: B

Alanis Morrissette Such Pretty Forks in the Road Track List:

1. Smiling
2. Ablaze
3. Reasons I Drink
4. Diagnosis
5. Missing the Miracle
6. Losing the Plot
7. Reckoning
8. Sandbox Love
9. Her
10. Nemesis
11. Pedestal