DIFRANCO ANI - KNUCKLE DOWN
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Even after 15 years of releasing albums on her own Righteous Babe imprint, it's hard to know what to make of Ani DiFranco. Some see her as a folkie-punk-bisexual-feminist-radical-crap-kicker, while others reckon she's merely Alanis Morissette with better lyrics. On her 15th studio album the truth just might be somewhere in between. She does dysfunctional family portraits ("Studying Stones") and broken affairs ("Lag Time") just fine, but she also manages to leave room for rambling, autobiographical beat poetry ("Parameters"). And then there is the music. Matching acoustic guitars with earthy funk rhythms and soft moonlight moods with out-of-leftfield song arrangements, it reconfirms the one label everyone can agree upon: fiercely original. --Aidin Vaziri
Recommended Ani DiFranco Discography
Out of Range
Not a Pretty Girl
So Much Shouting, So Much Laughter
Little Plastic Castle
Living in Clip
Top Customer Reviews
Check out the song "Knuckle Down"...I still have it on my favorite playlist today (2012) and it won't be getting removed anytime soon. The packaging for this CD was absolutely gorgeous; I felt like I was opening a Xmas present!
You won't be disappointed by this CD.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
The disc is initiated by the frantic, frothily produced self-exploration of the title track, which Difranco ends by observing, "still that star-struck girl is someone I miss." Then comes lead single "Studying Stones," where she delves as deeply into her personal life, outside of her divorce, as she ever has on record. The song is, simply put, amazing.
"'Course numb is an old hat/Old as my oldest memories/See that one's my mother/And that one's my father/And that one in the hat, that's me/It's a skill I'd hoped to abandon/When I got out on the open road/But any more pent up emotion/And I think I'm gonna explode."
To be sure, she has not finished immersing the subject of her divorce in her music, as the likes of "Seeing Eye Dog," Modulation" and "Manhole" are the furthest thing from subtle, revealing Difranco as the epitome of bitter. All are on the sarcastic side, clearly evident of her newfound sense of freedom and sensible approach to remedying her life's tribulations, while the former tells a story all too accessible to many who have been through similar circumstances.
"I threw myself a little role reversal and followed you home/Just dying to be chewed/The dog was chosen by the bone/Be my seeing eye dog/'Cause I am blind."
She is rather hard on herself in the anthemic "Lag Time," proclaiming with her confidant delivery above hooky guitar chords that she wishes to become far more capable of making sound judgments concerning her relationships with others in her life, and thus "tighten down on the lag time." Further on, in "Parameters" she narrowly talks her way out of getting raped by coaxing an intruder and would-be rapist "off the ledge of a very bad idea."
"New as you are, really, to the idea that/Even after you've long since gotten used to the parameters/They can all change/While you're out one night having a drink with a friend/Some big hand may be turning a big dial/Switching channels on your dreams/Until you find yourself lost in them/And watching your daily life with the sound off."
She also reminisces specifically of the high-maintenance side of her ex-husband in "Callous" and "Minerva," the latter in which she likens herself to the wise, stalwart Roman goddess. The ultimate highlight of the album, however, is "Paradigm," the only track on the disc which finds Difranco dishing up more of her political psyche.
"(I had to) teach myself to see each of us/Through the lens of forgiveness/Like we're stuck with each other (God forbid!)/Teach myself to smile and stop and talk/To a whole other color kid/Teach myself to be new in an instant/Like the truth is accessible at any time/Teach myself it's never really one or the other/There's a paradox in every paradigm."
The album concludes on a high note with "Recoil," where she realizes she has not been held "since I've been his" and that that's "probably all it is" that's made her recoil from her friends in her solitude. She also fondly recalls her father "who time travels mostly now," and ends the song with an invitation.
"To all the people out there tonight/Who are comforting themselves/If you should happen to see my light/You can stop and ring my bell/I'm just sittin' here in this sty/Strewn with half written songs/Taking one breath at a time/Nothin' much going on/Nothin' much going on."
Overall, "Knuckle Down" is a transitional record for Difranco, finding her surfacing between two different phases of her life. Listening to her contemplate her situation and those that surround her is thus all the more absorbing.
I took a chance, put my faith in her abilities, and pre-ordered Knuckle Down. The streams in my digital library seemed good enough that I would end up liking this album more than EG, at least.
After listening to this album for the past few days, I can definitely conclude that it is one of her best. The first five tracks are flawless (from there its a little hit or miss) and about half of the remaining eight are excellent. There are only a couple of songs that I'm "not feeling" yet.
At any rate, if you had lost faith in Ani after Educated Guess, definitely give her a second chance w/ this album - you won't regret it! :)
If you're new to Ani, I'd suggest a handful of other albums before this one, but definitely make sure to purchase this one at some point!
Todd Sickafoose, while really annoying with that giant bass at Luther Burbank in Santa Rosa was incredible at The Warfield, And, on the album, the upright base is just right. Julie Wolf makes a guest appearance as melodica which I always find refreshing - the two of them have some incredible chemistry and it's always a joy to see/hear them making noise together.
The biggest sign of success for Ani, in my mind, became clear upon seeing the *very* VERY eclectic group of folk who had gathered to see her those two nights. it's clear she has reached far into the corners of musicfanworld and has drawn out some folks who one wouldn't necessarily expect to see at her shows. There was a guy in a 3 piece suit dancing, rather stiffly to her tunes, to the right of me in the pit and to the left a pot smoking 20 something cowgirl-ish punk who jabbed me in the ribs more than I would have liked. Get the album, you'll enjoy it and so will about everyone around you. My husband, while he respects her as an artist, a political voice etc etc is really annoyed by her sound. Funny thing is that he's been walking around the house whistling her tunes...really, get it, you'll not regret it.
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