This site too slow? Try a mirror  --  Subscribe to the Guide  --  Find artist:
the Ectophiles' Guide: * Guide Home* What's new* * Alphabetical* Genre* Commentator* Location* Random artist* Search* Contact the editors* Credits

Ani DiFranco


Country of origin:

U.S.

Type of music generally:

Beautiful and fierce folk/rock, but in its own unique way. Sometimes called punk folk. Early work more contemporary-folk-sounding.

Status:

Most recent release, ¿Which Side Are You On? (2012)

Covers/own material:

Own, with very occasional covers

See also:

Righteous Babe Records site

Ectophiles' Guide entry on Utah Phillips and Ani DiFranco

Comparisons:

It's pretty telling that I edited more comments for this page than any other, and not a single person compared ani to another artist. She's definitely an original, melding the legacy of outspoken and political folk artists like Woody Guthrie and early Bob Dylan with the strong-willed and confessional women of the '80s and '90s, sort of :) (neal)

General comments:

ani's a punk-folk performer with a very unique guitar style. (jeffw@smoe.org)

She has some incredible guitar rhythms, a very strong, sharply edged voice, and sometimes funny, sometimes angry, sometimes profound lyrics. (sagetodd@postoffice.ptd.net)

ani's definitely not an introspective performer; she's very extroverted and out there. Her songs cover a HUGE range of topics, thoughts, emotions, and the like. She can be a political ranter, or a storyteller, a woman in love, or a woman pissed off. She can be vulnerable or tough, or aggressive, or quiet. And everything she's ever written is thoughtful. Jaw-dropping lyrics, and more honesty, both political and personal, than you're like to get from ANY other artist, even those renowned for writing from their lives like Tori Amos.
     Her first two albums are straight folk, her third and fourth, aggressive folk, her fifth and sixth (discounting Like I Said because it's a later re-casting of songs from earlier albums) are the most varied of her recordings for sure, going from pop to rock (and rock operas!) to folk with the press of the "skip" button. She's EXTREMELY versatile, both on CD and live. ani's the best guitarist I've ever heard, and one of the best guitarists in the biz today, with a style totally her own. It's incredible how she can sing and play without either aspect suffering in the slightest, and the emotional impact of her playing and her lyrics combined can leave someone absolutely floored.
     ani is god. Sorry Kate. ;P :) Oh, please, DO bring on ani instead of ANYONE! :) ani ani ani! You know, if I could throw out ALL my CDs in return for an equal number of new ani albums, I'd just do it. I don't think I'd even miss Jewel and Tori and the like. I could listen to ani forever. (NyxNight@aol.com)

ani is one of few artists whose lyrics reach me as quickly as the music. her words are so much a part of her art that they are difficult to ignore—even for people like me. ;) (woj@smoe.org)

ani's albums are only a hint of how great she can be live. She's got incredible personality, talks with the crowd, and is a really lively performer. Plus, you get ad libs, new songs, and who knows what might happen. I'd say it's more important to go see her live than to buy the albums (though that's a good thing to do, too). I've seen her a half dozen times, and she's a phenomenal performer. Check out her live disc, Living in Clip, if you haven't already. Many of us think that all of her discs should be recorded live :). (neal)

This woman is absolutely the greatest. I cannot listen to her CDs at work because I always want to sing along. Gush, gush. (cinnamon@one.net)

ani has the strongest song collection of any '90s artist I can think of—except Tori Amos. I don't understand why the comments here are all against her early albums—Imperfectly especially is one of my fave albums ever. ani I loved virtually from first listen.
     She has some tough songs, but not all of her songs are like that. Many are beautiful, slow ballads, played with as much delicacy as anyone else. Perhaps if people who find her rocky side too much for them heard some of those (and they work so well in concert), they'd be able to get into her more. (afinney@ozonline.com.au)

ani is raw and full of passion. (cyo@landoftheblind.com)

i have to say that with all of ani's albums, i separate the songs into the unique songs and the typical-ani-strum-angrily songs, and i find the latter to be kind of boring. but those unique songs...oh those unique songs...so good they are. (paul2k@aol.com)

...has it been said anywhere that ani is influenced by mary margaret o'hara? it seemed kind of obvious, at first. *far* from an ani fan am i, yet...well the similarities in breathing technique and phrasing on miss america are most definitely NO COINCIDENCE with ani's trademark style. (LilWhirl@aol.com)

She is the most amazing guitarists I've ever heard. I don't think there are hardly any other guitarists out there who can do what she does. My Heaven...she's always moving all ten fingers and it's this orchestra, this massive acoustic symphony monster, and then she stops and it was a guitar actually, but hey, wow. ani rocks, yo. (John.Drummond)

it's all about the energy. i have to say that i personally found her recorded stuff dim in comparison to her live. but then i haven't seen her live since she toured for Dilate...
     my favorite ani albums being Living In Clip (the 2CD live album) and Dilate which i view as ani's Little Earthquakes...i keep on buying albums by her that she releases, and in truth i haven't liked an album since Living In Clip...hmmm...why do i keep on buying her albums then? i dunno. nostalgia i guess.
     Later: i slowly have been losing interest in ani. pretty much everything post Living In Clip has been not my cup of tea, and after one listen to evolve i can't say much other than i'll probably be shelving this one too. it's a shame because i have fond memories of pre-Living In Clip albums.
     i don't COMPLETELY chalk it up to ANI's music. i haven't really listened to her earlier stuff that much either, and i find that when i do, i can only listen to one or two CD's or even half of one of her CD's. perhaps my own tastes have evolved away from what she is doing. (iflin@speakeasy.net)

She's already a legend. (jsutton@rahul.net)

I can't say if ani is "Ecto", but she is certainly ectophilic. She's been discussed on the ecto list quite a bit. I love her music and have all of her albums except Like I Said (the one with songs from the first, self-titled album). I love her music too. I love that I can listen to her in any mood, because she can make me laugh and cry and think and feel and work through my anger. For instance, "Blood in the Boardroom" always makes me feel better about my cycle. (JoAnn Whetsell)

You can count me an ani fan from now on. That said, despite everything, I still am left wondering what exactly is that something that makes so many people (here on this list and elsewhere) place ani in their musical Holy of Holies. I would most definitely go see her again, and I'm considering buying more albums, but for me she's not one of those artists whose dozen-or-so-album catalogues inspire pure joy at getting to purchase so much great music with complete disregard for my financial situation. And I don't think she will be, either—to me, she's an excellent artist, but no goddess. Well, knowing myself, I should be watching my words here now that the spark's been ignited. Perhaps I should take a closer look at those lyrics booklets.... (jsorva@niksula.hut.fi)

Ani seems to have decided that she's a jazz artist, and I'm simply not down with that in that I simply don't like jazz much. I still thank her for Not a Pretty Girl, though...and for what it's worth, in my opinion, So Much Shouting, So Much Laughter ain't all that bad either. (drumz@best.com)

I'm a big advocate of latter-day Ani...one of my favorite albums is actually To the Teeth from 1999. I thought her experimentations with jazz/funk and a horn section were great, and I love that she loosened up her song structures and got more experimental. I also like her more gravelly, more expressive voice and increasingly reflective and melancholic material. I also appreciate that she's less strident and self-conscious than she was previously. For instance, her political material on later albums tends to be more storytelling-based (i.e. "Birmingham")... she simply makes her point without the constant declarations of "You misunderstood me. How dare you misunderstand me!? Here's what I was trying to say..." Those early declarations of intent are great fun, but I think have less depth artistically. None of this is to discredit the quality of early Ani (Out of Range is still a favorite album), but to highlight what I see as her progression.
     All of that said, she has dropped her band and horn section since Evolve and is now moving into a new sound and phase, and I've noticed that old Ani fans do appreciate some of her most recent work more than they appreciated her big band phase. The focus is definitely back on her...her voice, her songwriting, instead of group jam sessions, which is what I believe some people missed. Educated Guess is a knotty and gnarly transitional album that might be a "for fans only." But Knuckle Down is a favorite of many old-school fans. It was her first time working with a co-producer, and there's more attention to the album as an album than on most of her work...it's sort of ushered in a new focus on production and final product. Her albums now seem like coherent artistic statements instead of just snapshots of a performer in motion. She's been working with just a few extra musicians, mostly Todd Sickafoose, an excellent double bass player that she stole from Noe Venable. Knuckle Down also has some violin from Andrew Bird.(timjy@sbcglobal.net)

Comments on live performance:

It's just a shame that her recordings don't begin to capture the passion and enthusiasm of her live performances. And her personality is a delight—playfully neurotic is a phrase that sprang to mind as I watched her. A great show—the only complaint I had was that stylistically her songs don't vary much—she basically has the folk/punk and the spoken word songs. She's great at what she does, but it would be nice to see a little more variety. (jjhanson@att.net)

She is a great performer! Her time on stage seemed to be divided about equally between tuning her guitar, chatting with the audience, and occasionally playing a song or two :) It was great. She is sloppy, she forgets words, chords, heck—whole songs, yet it all hangs together somehow, on the force of her personality and the sense of fun. (afries@zip.com.au)

It was absolutely amazing! I took a sceptical friend and he walked away a convert. And this person was very sceptical so that's saying something.
     Definitely the best concert I have *ever* been to (admittedly not that many), but one of the things that definitely made it was the atmosphere. Not only was ani very funny, but there was this great energy about the entire band, especially Julie, and one of the highlights was the on-stage banter between them. Of course, if ani ever lost her music (heaven forbid) she could also make a comfortable living as a comedian, and the fact that she mixed music with attitude and thoughtfulness made for a great, well-rounded concert.
     I wish I was a bootlegger just so I could have taped that concert. It was interesting because although the only favourite songs of mine she played were "You Had Time" and a very very unrecognisable "In Or Out", I still loved every second of it, and songs I hadn't liked so much in record just seemed to make sense. I previously found the words to "Know Now Then" a bit clumsy, but when she performed it with so much power over such a minimalist background, it just seemed like beautiful poetry.
     This is the third time ani has been to Melbourne since I discovered her (in '95), and yet its only the first time I've been able to see her, so it was a concert I went to with high expectations. Amazingly, she not fulfilled them, but smashed them to pieces. (1/99, afinney@ozonline.com.au)

the real pleasure for me is to see her live. it's doubtful that anyone could walk away from one of her shows without a huge smile on their face. of course she does use a lot of a lot of foul language so buyer beware. (FAMarcus@aol.com)

Friday was the first time I saw her live. Excellent show! That woman has a *lot* of energy. Everything was great about that night—except for the temp in the high 80s/low 90s with 100% humidity. ani rocked with no break. Most excellent! Definitely recommended to all. (7/99, Matt.Bittner)

When I first saw Ani DiFranco, she was playing solo on an outdoor stage. She appeared to have some kind of picks attached to her fingers with black electrical tape. When she started to wail on that guitar, I realized the tape was a good idea. A most impressive guitarist and performer. (jsutton@rahul.net)

I've seen her 2-1/2 times in concert, and I would say yes, yes, YES, definitely go see her if you get a chance. I think she herself, if I remember correctly from interviews and stuff, considers herself more of a live performer than a studio artist, and I think that's true. She is a very energetic performer, and gives a lot to her music. Energetic isn't even the right word. It's more like passionate, but that isn't it either. Intense, that's it. She also tends to tell a lot of little stories and jokes and stuff. Definitely qualifies as entertaining.
     She played here at Oberlin a few years ago. One of her songs actually made me cry, it reminded me too much of personal stuff I was going through at the time, so I ended up leaving. That's why I say I've seen her 2 1/2 times.
     I saw her in New Brunswick, NJ around the time Living in Clip came out, and the year before last, in Columbus, OH, just after Little Plastic Castle came out. She's an awesome performer. (10/99, JoAnn.Whetsell)

No warm-up band, so it was just ani and her show, and a butt-kicking show that was, too. I was told later that many of the songs were from Little Plastic Castle—perhaps she knew that that's her only album that's widely available here. There were a few new songs ("kinda like the old ones, only much better"), but fewer than might be expected considering that this was the start of her new tour and yesterday was the release date for to the teeth.
     Anyway, whatever the songs were called, I really enjoyed them beyond my expectations. It was a thrill hearing them delivered live with a strong and pure sound, and it was a thrill seeing her deliver them. (Charming facial expressions she has, by the way. :)) At least as far as my current relationship with her music goes, she's at her best when she's at her weirdest and rockiest.... my, that song "Jukebox" is good, and it wasn't the only one.
     Other highlights: The "serious folk action" of the bluegrass song about her parents. Then there was a funny episode where she forgot the lyrics to a (new?) song ("my mind is blank...this has happened before") which resulted in amused quips between band members as they jammed on. Also, there was a brand-new song ("wrote this last week...I pretend to know how to play it") which she performed solo with the acoustic guitar, seemingly having trouble hitting the right notes in the beginning, and which seemed to be about machines making silence, kisses, bacteria, and a crazy fucker who built a statue out of butter and propped it up at the Bonanza breakfast club, among various other things.... I'm afraid I can't tell you just what the connecting line of thought between these elements is without seeing the thing written down first. And last, the to-all-appearances impromptu final encore. After they'd already come back once and disappeared again, it turned out that no more encores had been planned for. Us in the crowd, however, kept applauding, undeterred, for minutes after the regular lights and background music came back...and were rewarded with another song. And you can count me an ani fan from now on. (11/99, jsorva@niksula.hut.fi)

It seems to me that ani is at the place in her career that tori was several years ago. Her fans worship her so much that they actually make the concert a somewhat unpleasant experience. Despite that, I thoroughly enjoyed the show, as usual. I'm not very familiar with Up Up Up Up Up Up and To The Teeth, so a lot of the songs were unfamiliar to me. I actually like the horns on Little Plastic Castle, but most of the times I found these kind of offputting. And I still miss Andy Stochansky (especially on the boring drum solo).
     But enough griping. ani has such a stellar stage presence. The crowd went insane when she just walked out onto the stage, backlit by a bank of lights, and stood there waiting for things to quiet down. And I actually thought a lot of the highlights came when she played in a more stripped-down format, like the mostly solo gun indictment song (with some standup bass at the end), of the stunningly beautiful duet with accordionist Julie on a song called(?) "I Am Not Angry Any More". And I think I could listen to an entire album that consisted of nothing more than The Diner/Hat-Shaped Hat (sorry, I'm really crummy with song names). (4/00, neal)

My first exposure to Ani DiFranco was a live one, at Glastonbury in '97, and even though I knew none of her music, she thrilled me. The sheer energy and enjoyment she brings in a live situation just conquered all. Yes, the audience members—even here—were appalling, and I was particularly disturbed by the lesbian couple in front of me who booed her (male) supporting musicians when ani introduced them. Nonetheless, I've seen her again, and enjoyed her live far more than her albums, old or new. (1/01, adamk@zoom.co.uk)

While ani's audiences have made it impossible for me to see her perform in recent years, she has always put on one hell of a show. The sound has always been good, and she's always been in great voice and the band has been tight. (The audience, on the other hand, is guaranteed to suck every night. sigh.) (c. 1998)
     Just got back from seeing Ani DiFranco at the Beacon Theater in NYC. The last time we saw Ani in a theater setting was in 1998 ... we've seen her since at Falcon Ridge a couple times, but that's it. We were particularly interested in tonight's show because Ani's "band" this time consisted of bass player extraordinaire Todd Sickafoose.
     I didn't know most of the stuff she performed in her set—a lot of it was brand new, like she always does, but a good portion was from the last three albums, which we either have only listened to once or twice or haven't even bought at all. Basically, after Dilate (which I think is her masterpiece) I've steadily lost interest, though I still keep an eye on what she's doing. Her music is mellowing with age, though it's still got its political bent and though she's definitely leaning more toward the jazzy side of things, she can still rock out too. Her musical interplay with Todd was amazing—she gave him space to really show his stuff, and he turned out to be even better than I'd seen when he was with Noe. He played just an upright bass for the entire set, and it worked with the music perfectly.
     The set closer was "Shameless", which is an old fave of mine, and for the encore she trotted out "Gravel" and "32 Flavors", that last with Gail Ann Dorsey on guitar and backing vox. Those old songs had an "I'm only playing these because I know people want to hear them" vibe to them, but they were well-played and were still fun to hear. (11/04, meth@smoe.org)

I just got in from seeing my first Ani DiFranco concert in Nashville. All I can say is everything I've heard about her live performance was totally correct, she puts on the greatest high-energy/breath-taking show! I was hoping for a few more acoustic numbers (she did one, "up up up up up up") and the added horn section got annoying sometimes but besides that no complaints haha. The crowd was fun and ani played a great set mixing her new stuff (which she surprisingly didn't do much of) with stuff from Dilate to To the Teeth. I just wish it would've gone on all night! (RocketsTail@aol.com)

Recommended first album:

Editor's note: With ani putting out a new album a year, frequently of a caliber to challenge her best previous work, these recommendations are bound to get dated. Many people who loved Out Of Range went on to really love Not A Pretty Girl, with a smaller contingent holding out for Dilate. Many also think that ani's live show is more thrilling than her albums, so that the double live Living In Clip album, while somewhat flawed, is now the best introduction to her work. (neal)

The surest bet is probably Out Of Range, if only because the styles vary so greatly, but the best of them, in my opinion, is Not A Pretty Girl. (NyxNight@aol.com)

I would recommend Out Of Range. That is the first album I ever heard by her and thus far it is my favorite. It's got some really nice personal songs on it and seems closer to the energy of her concerts than the other things I have heard. (V115P8D6@ubvms.cc.buffalo.edu)

Well, Out Of Range has found a happy home in my CD player, where it will no doubt stay for a good long time. I had never heard ani until a couple of months ago, and now I'm really captivated by her work. So far I only have Out Of Range and her new one, Not A Pretty Girl, which is also very good, but I think Out Of Range would be a fine one to start with. (trow@interbridge.com)

I've been overdosing on Out Of Range, which is going to be pretty high up on my list of best albums of the year, no question. I think it's the best one she's done yet. (meth@smoe.org), circa 1994
      At this point, I'd like to chime in and recommend Not A Pretty Girl as the one Ani DiFranco album to get if you can only ever get one. It's utterly incredibly amazing, and is only getting better the more I listen to it, which happens several times a week. Lyrically, musically, everything comes together almost perfectly. It's brilliant. (meth@smoe.org), circa 1995
     Not A Pretty Girl continues to reign as the best ani album, at least in my mind (closely followed by Living in Clip). (meth@smoe.org), circa 1998.

I'd recommend starting off with her album Out Of Range. (sagetodd@postoffice.ptd.net)

puddle dive was my intro to ani and it's still a favorite. however, i think that not a pretty girl is her best—it's so gritty, lovely, engrossing and musically interesting. (woj@smoe.org)

I have to admit that she's not my favorite and a few of her CDs I really don't appreciate, but I find that Out Of Range and Not A Pretty Girl are the two ani CDs that are normally in my room. If i had to pick one, though, it would definitely be Not A Pretty Girl. My absolutely favoritest (yes, that's a word) ani song, "32 Flavors", is on that CD and I normally can't get through a day without it. Plus I find the rest of that CD much more listener-friendly than many of her earlier albums. It's taken a few months for me to get used to her. (bye@humnet.ucla.edu)

first choice: Not A Pretty Girl. 2nd: Out Of Range. She just keeps gettin' better! (dmw@mwmw.com)

Out Of Range (I like Not A Pretty Girl as well, but like this one better) is a great discovery. (abehrend@direct.ca)

I personally would recommend Dilate first since it's my favourite of her albums. However, if you are a contemporary folk music lover you might start with her earlier work, perhaps Puddle Dive or earlier. If you like contemporary folk music edging toward rock, start with Out Of Range or Not A Pretty Girl. Anyway, I would say Dilate is my favourite ani, Living in Clip comes next, then Out of Range and Up Up Up Up Up Up, then Not a Pretty Girl. The rest it's pretty hard to rank. I like them, but don't love them. (Neile)

Little Plastic Castle (hands down-my favorite ani album yet!). (Riphug@aol.com)

The ani album I really love is Out of Range. I think it's a dynamo of a CD. I find the songs on Out of Range to be intense, lyrically powerful, and musically interesting. (jwermont@netcom.com)

for me, her best stuff is living in clip, then selected songs from dilate, not a pretty girl and little plastic castle. i like those three about evenly—certain songs really stand out. (barbearuh@erols.com)

i am not very enthusiastic about anything before puddle dive (certain specific songs, yes, but on the whole most of the early albums weren't all that interesting to me). i think her most personal album is dilate. it also happens to be one of my all-time favorite ani albums, but that doesn't mean that everyone likes it, or that you should start with it.
     but for classic ani, go for Out of Range. it has definitely held up, a nice blend of her earlier folk-ie stuff and her later, more studio savvy stuff.
     a good intro though, and an excellent purchase in its own right is the live 2CD set called Living in Clip that compiles songs from her dilate tour. excellent overview and selection of songs, and the sheer energy of ani comes through. which it oftentimes does not in the studio versions.
     i would probably start off with that, and then move to Out of Range now that i think about it.
     have fun; she's a great one to discover. (iflin@speakeasy.net)

for me...dilate, not a pretty girl and my personal favorite little plastic castle. (FAMarcus@aol.com)

All of ani albums are actually very different from each other except for the first two which are largely acoustic. If you don't want to get the first two albums, you can get a compilation one disc called Like I Said which has pretty much the best songs from those albums. It has a new guitar instrumentation on it, so it's not just a re-release of old songs. But I suggest getting the 1st two albums at some point anyway.
     With every album. ani gets more into the instrumental aspect of her music, even though the words will always be the prominent showcase. With Up Up Up Up Up Up, for example, you have a 12-minute "instrumental" with few words. On the other hand, her earlier work would showcase almost poetry like readings, but with a beat.
     Oh, and Living in Clip is a performance double disc, with some AWESOME tracks. ani has said herself that she comes off better live than she does in the studio, so I suggest you fitting this one in your shopping list. (shye@uclink4.berkeley.edu)

My favourite ani album is still Living in Clip, which I'd recommend to pretty much anyone. (ectophil@netlink.co.nz)

Recordings:


Ani DiFranco

Release info:

1990—Righteous Babe Records—RBR001D-2

Availability:

Available at hipper stores and from Righteous Babe

Ecto priority:

Low

Comments:

Her first CD is your basic (albeit far better than average) "girl with a guitar" folk music. No vocal layerings, no instruments other than one guitar and one woman's voice. There are some wonderful songs there, and some "please press the skip button now" songs. She covers politics and personal stuff, like usual. There's also a poem, recited straight with no music at all. (NyxNight@aol.com)

While I do enjoy listening to this album, you can really tell that she was self-conscious and nervous for a lot of the recordings and so she comes across sounding kind of weird. I'm glad I bought it, but it isn't really on my "listen to all the time" list. (sagetodd@postoffice.ptd.net)


Not So Soft

Release info:

1991—Righteous Babe Records—RBR002D-2

Availability:

Available at hipper stores and from Righteous Babe

Ecto priority:

Low

Comments:

Kinda like her first, but with drums and some (sometimes distracting) vocal layering added. This is my least favorite of her CDs, but there's some great stuff on here too, including one of my favorite spoken poems of hers, and her first attack on the record industry! Hahah! (NyxNight@aol.com)

Not So Soft is, I think, one of her best—very cheerful and sarcastically funny. I didn't like it at all at first. I thought her singing style was obnoxious but after further listens realized that I *loved* her singing style, the lyrics, the guitar, everything. (sagetodd@postoffice.ptd.net)


Imperfectly

Release info:

1992—Righteous Babe Records—RBR003-D

Availability:

Available at hipper stores and from Righteous Babe

Ecto priority:

Low

Guest artists:

Andy Stochansky—drums, percussion
Geoff Perry—bass
Tim Allan—mandolin
Greg Horn—trumpet
George Puleo—electric guitar
Mary Ramsey (10,000 Maniacs, John and Mary)—viola

Produced by:

Ani DiFranco, Ed Stone, Dale

Comments:

Ani gets more aggressive and adds a couple of guest musicians, including Andy Stochansky, who is still with her. She starts her trademark guitar beating here, and introduces a little more of her famous attitude. This is a great CD, with another poem, performed with overlapping vocals, one a cappella song and one of her best songs, "In Or Out", as well as a great song about activism and standing up for your beliefs, called "What If No One's Watching". (NyxNight@aol.com)

Imperfectly was the next buy, and aside from the extremely irritating "every state line" (I mean, maybe it's great to listen to if you've been pulled over by the cops a lot, but I've never been pulled over once and so it just ends up sounding boring to me) it is wonderfully introspective and interesting. (sagetodd@postoffice.ptd.net)

The songs on Imperfectly are thoughtful, beautiful, and vurry well-done. I think if you rully liked Out of Range, you might also like Imperfectly, which I picked up over the summer because it was the only one left I hadn't already gotten (when I heard it, I was saddened that I'd waited so long to buy it!). The songs on it are thoughtful, beautiful, and vurry well-done. And somehow the "feel" of Imperfectly is similar to that of Out of Range, at least to me. I think of Out of Range and Imperfectly as being her two most...um, thoughtful and beautiful albums. Yeah. I find that all the songs on Imperfectly also are "self-contained", not straying from their lines of thought, and there are some really beautiful images and ideas. It is an earlier album, and so it's not as "produced" as Not A Pretty Girl, but I don't find that to detract from the album's appeal. (laur@pobox.com)


Puddle Dive

Release info:

1993—Righteous Babe Records—RBR004-D

Availability:

Available at hipper stores and from Righteous Babe

Ecto priority:

Middle to high

Guest artists:

Andy Stochansky—drums, percussion, marimba, triangle, tire rim, djembe, steel drum, shaker, vocals
Scot Fisher—accordion
Ann Rabson—piano
Rory McLeod—harmonica
Mary Ramsey (10,000 Maniacs, John and Mary)—violin
Scott Freilich—bass
Alex Meyer—cvica, samba whistle

Produced by:

Ani DiFranco, Ed Stone, Dale

Comments:

Ani adds yet more instruments. This is one of my favorites. More aggressive folk, more great lyrics and personal-political talk, including a gorgeous ballad called "Anyday", the subject jumping "Pick Yer Nose", one of her most well-known (comparatively speaking) songs, "Blood In The Boardroom", and the "pulled over by the cops" folk tune, "God's Country". (NyxNight@aol.com)

all I have to say about this particular album is that the song "blood in the boardroom" makes me laugh really hard every time I hear it and more people should learn to be like this about people having their period. (sagetodd@postoffice.ptd.net)

i guess i really just am not fond of prickly staccato guitar like this. her lyrics are often really good, but somehow the overall effect of ani difranco is not so much to my liking. (damon)

This was the first Ani DiFranco album I got, and was a good intro to her earlier folky side for someone (me, I mean) who isn't into contemporary folk—it had enough of an edge and hints of the weird and wonderful directions she'd go in the future to pique my interest. Folky but smart ass. (Neile)

I like it, but it just doesn't quite have the depth I find on Dilate or Not A Pretty Girl. Doesn't mean I won't listen to it, just that I will pop on Dilate more often, and swell in glow and the hum. (Horter3)

revolutionary, bitter feminist anthem, critiquing society and patriarchy—woohoo!! (shye@uclink4.berkeley.edu)

I think the first ani album I ever heard, and still one of my favorites. (JoAnn Whetsell)


Like I Said

Release info:

1993—Righteous Babe Records—RBR005-D

Availability:

Available at hipper stores and from Righteous Babe

Ecto priority:

Low

Guest artists:

Andy Stochansky—drums, percussion, djembe, dumbek, vocals
Ahmed Hassan—udu, caxixis, didjeridoo, vocalizing
Andres McCandless—trumpet
Brian Eckenrode—cello, bagpipes
Scot Fisher—accordion, piano
Michael Miskuly—violin

Produced by:

Ani DiFranco, Ed Stone

Comments:

i found ani's album like i said incredibly annoying. sorry all you diehard ani fans. i bought it on a whim, and i couldn't get past the first couple of songs. all that guitar strumming. all my friends love her, and i know she is fabulous live (my friends went to the show, and came back proclaiming it changed their lives), but that experience just plain annoyed me. (iflin@speakeasy.net)

I agree that this isn't my favourite of her albums—it's a re-recording of some of her early songs and displays her folkier side, which just isn't my thing. I think fans of contemporary folk would like this album a lot but I rarely listen to this, because she has so many other wonderful albums that overshadow this. (Neile)

Anyway, it's not very interesting. I have it, but I've probably only listened it two or three times since I bought it a year or two ago. If it wasn't ani, I'd probably have sold it long ago. (burnettj@scils.rutgers.edu)


Out of Range

Release info:

1994—Righteous Babe Records—RBR006-D

Availability:

Available at hipper stores and from Righteous Babe

Ecto priority:

High

Guest artists:

Andy Stochansky—drums, dumbek, vocals
Alisdair Jones—bass
Chris Brown—piano
Sara McElcheran—trumpet
Colleen Allen—saxophone
Stephen Donald—trombone
Scot Fisher—accordion

Produced by:

Ani DiFranco, Ed Stone

Comments:

This is by far the strongest of her pre-Dilate albums. The songs are all outstanding and I love her voice, subject matter, and straight-forward persona. (Neile)

Varies from the ballad lament of "You Had Time" to the rock electric version of the title track, to the folky "Overlap", "Hell Yeah", and one of my favorites, "If He Tries Anything". (NyxNight@aol.com)

My first ani album, and I like it a lot. Cool sound, cool lyrics. (cmont@rci.rutgers.edu)

I *adore* this album—and *laughing* no, it isn't because there's a song that mentions coffee a lot, either. This one is really folksy and fun with some really lovely songs about love, including "You Had Time" which I like partly because of the beginning—a piano part that sounds (to me, anyway) like someone just picking out notes and then slides somehow into a full fledged song. (sagetodd@postoffice.ptd.net)

you know, the first few times i listened to out of range, it seemed to lack some spark that ani difranco's earlier records had. then, before writing this reply, i went back to listen to it and it seemed fresh and new and wonderful all over again. huh. (woj@smoe.org)

The ani album I really love is Out of Range. I don't hear people mentioning this one too much, but I think it's a dynamo of a CD. I haven't heard Dilate or Living in Clip (but I don't tend to like live albums that much—you get neither the energy of being there live, nor the benefits of a studio production). I just find the songs on Out of Range to be intense, lyrically powerful, and musically interesting. I like "Falling is Like This" ("one minute there was road beneath us, and the next was sky..."), but I also love "Buildings and Bridges", "Out of Range" (both versions), and my most favorite of all, "Letter to a John" (absolutely stunning lyrics). "Face Up and Sing" is great too—I love the line, "You don't have to be a supermodel to do the animal thing." "Not Done Looking Yet" is another favorite, and I also like the one that goes "Life is a B movie / it's stupid and it's strange."
     The lyrics on this album are *so* strong. And each song really makes its own point, presents a complete idea and doesn't stray off into some other line of thought. "Buildings and Bridges" is about being willing to be open and flexible. "Out of Range" is about trying to break out of a pattern of domestic violence when you've grown up with it, and your mother has grown up with it, and so on. "Letter to a John" is about a prostitute who wants some respect for her work and then to be left alone to live her own life. I love lyrics like this—really direct and to the point, with each line and each verse contributing to the meaning of the song. It's clean that way. But she doesn't sacrifice poetry, either. (jwermont@netcom.com)


Not A Pretty Girl

Release info:

1995—Righteous Babe Records—RBR007-D

Availability:

Available at hipper stores and from Righteous Babe

Ecto priority:

High

Guest artists:

Andy Stochansky—drums, percussion, vocals
Kate Fenner—vocals

Produced by:

Ani DiFranco

Comments:

I wasn't super impressed with Not A Pretty Girl—partly I was just disappointed that it's a lot less folksy than her other ones, and seems to have less...oh, I don't know, less of a sense of humor or something. (sagetodd@postoffice.ptd.net)

Her best yet, and definitely one of the best of that year, bar none. Not A Pretty Girl is still one of my Desert Island Discs, and I don't see it falling off that list anytime soon. It contains to my ear similar arrangements to Out of Range, with a bit fuller sound, and crisper production. There are some real gems on the album, from the rocking "Cradle And All" to the wrenching "Sorry I Am" to the *real* "32 Flavors". There are songs about one-night stands, relationships that probably should have been one-night stands, schoolgirl crushes, and capital punishment ("justice isn't something just anyone can afford"), just to name a few. Good stuff. (meth@smoe.org)

this album just doesn't work for me all that well. a lot of the lyrics are very very good, but it's perhaps *too* folk-oriented for me, and i don't really enjoy listening to it. there's some other quality about her lyrics or her style i don't like very much as well, though i can't put a finger on it. (damon)

Now, I might be biased, as I am obsessed with the musical genius of this woman, but this is, in my opinion, the best album released this year, bar none. Incredible lyrics (the best in the biz!), incredible guitaring (almost the best in the biz!), and a great honey and venom voice make for 14 awe-worthy tracks of emotional rollercoastering. Wonderful stuff. The first song to hook me on this album was "32 Flavors", but I ended up falling in love with the sweetly folky "got a crush" song "This Bouquet". (NyxNight@aol.com)

A great album...one track even has a (gasp) bass hook! (cmont@rci.rutgers.edu)

Finally got to hear Not A Pretty Girl. *Loved* it. (burka@jeffrey.net)

To my mind, Not A Pretty Girl is much *harsher* than Out of Range or Imperfectly, in terms of the music and lyrics. Though this is not a bad thing—Not A Pretty Girl was the first ani album I was exposed to and I love it to death—I just find that I get different feelings from it than I do from the others. But that could just be me. (laur@pobox.com)


Dilate

Release info:

1996—Righteous Babe Records—RBR008-D

Availability:

Available at hipper stores and from Righteous Babe

Ecto priority:

Debatably high

Guest artists:

Andy Stochansky—drums
David Travers-Smith—trumpet
Michael Ramos—Hammond organ

Produced by:

Ani DiFranco

Comments:

While I disagree with almost every production decision made on this album, there's no denying that the songs and their impassioned delivery make this one of the most painful albums ever (in the sense of, to quote fellow ectophile Tamar, "she just BLEEDS all over these songs"). It's got some great songs, but it seems rushed and overall doesn't pack the wallop of Not A Pretty Girl, which continues to bash me over the head on the 300th listen. Standout tracks are "Superhero" and "Shameless", and would you believe I actually don't mind her trip-hop take on "Amazing Grace", even if it does go on about 3 minutes too long? :) She does some funky things with voice processing, too, though placing all of the tracks featuring this addition in a row ends up being too much of a good thing in the end. However, it's still yet another great ani album, and the new songs positively ROCK, especially live. (meth@smoe.org)

On first listen it is yet another brilliant, amazing effort from the brilliant and amazing ani. :) Standout tracks include "Untouchable Face", "Superhero" and "Shameless", but every track is good...and I'm the type who tends to like songs more with time so for me to gush after a first listen is a bit of a rarity. The raw emotion of some of the songs is breathtaking. (mcurry@io.com)

I love the new album. Vast improvement on Pretty Girl, in my opinion, and I especially enjoy "Superhero". While I don't like "Amazing Grace", I do kind of like the background voice that speaks the words before ani sings them. (sagetodd@postoffice.ptd.net)

ani's dilate is excellent. This is my first foray into ani, and I can honestly say I like it. No, that's not strong enough. I am enamored of it, if that's possible. ;-) It's so unique. And that's a good thing! There isn't a song on the disc that I do *not* like! (Matt.Bittner)

Dilate knocked me flat. It's one of the most emotionally powerful albums I've heard. She takes you right there with her. I love it. I obsessed with that album, maybe especially because it came at a particularly emotional time in my life. Anyway, it's intense and the arrangements are more complex and produced than in most of her work. Unlike some ectophiles, I love the production—I think it works with the songs. Every time I listen to this I hear something new. The album may be a step away from ani's previously more acoustic sound but it really works for me. (Neile)

Even though I like Not a Pretty Girl better, I listen to this one more. I guess it appeals to my angry, bitter side. :-) (stuart@sph.emory.edu)

"untouchable face" is an absolutely killer song. makes me an emotional wreck almost every time. (dmw@mwmw.com)

Dilate stands up to the high standard of artistic creation that ani has established throughout her career. You cannot not listen to Dilate because as soon as it starts, it shakes you to full attention. "Untouchable Face" is a fine example of the power of ani's writing and her ability to convert feeling into music that evokes the same feelings in the listener. Her music brings out that tinge of recognition felt deep within that for many of us, we keep silent and hidden from public view. (jsutton@rahul.net)

In my opinion, Dilate is lots more like Little Plastic Castle than Out of Range. The whole "feel" of the album is much more like Little Plastic Castle. (laur@pobox.com)

more popular, more accessible since some of the songs are about heterosexual love. (shye@uclink4.berkeley.edu)

Dilate is probably one of my all time favorite albums by her, but I think it is in a classification all by itself. It's painful and angry in a more intense personal way than anything she's released. It's pretty much sort of like her version of Little Earthquakes in that it's very self-confessional and all about heartache and heartbreak. And as such, I don't see it fitting into her regular catalogue of work. It's definitely worth checking out, but she probably didn't play anything from it in concert (I think she's stated that she doesn't play anything from that album anymore because it's too difficult emotionally for her, but that was awhile ago, so enough time might have passed for her to be able to revisit that material). (iflin@speakeasy.net)


More Joy, Less Shame (ep)

Release info:

1996—Righteous Babe Records—RBR010-D

Availability:

Available at hipper stores and from Righteous Babe

Ecto priority:

Low

Comments:

Previously unreleased remixes & live versions.
1. Joyful Girl—Danger & Uncertainty (video) Mix
2. Joyful Girl—Peace And Love Mix
3. Joyful Girl—Peace And Love Extended Mix
4. Joyful Girl—Live with the Buffalo Philharmonic, conducted by Doc Sevrinsen
5. Shameless—Bathtub Mix
6. Both Hands—Live in Austin, TX
Even a hardcore ani fan should likely be reaching for the skip button by the beginning of track 3. How much joy can one take anyway? But then the orchestra version is quite cool, I wonder if she did an entire concert with them? "Shameless" is very funky...I find so much of what ani does sounds the same, it's good to hear her songs with different arrangements and production. Finally, a rowdy crowd was on hand in Austin, it's a fun performance of "Both Hands". (carnivore@bigfoot.com)

ani difranco's more joy, less shame ep showed up in today's mail; some interesting remixes, including a version of "joyful girl" with the buffalo philharmonic (!); wish there was a video for the bathtub mix of "shameless". (woj@smoe.org)

I picked up more joy, less shame which I didn't realise was a CD-single. However, it's still good. (Matt.Bittner)


Living in Clip

Release info:

1997—Righteous Babe Records—RBR011

Availability:

Wide in U.S.

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Ani DiFranco

Guest artists:

Andy Stolchansky—drums
Sara Lee—bass

Comments:

Living in Clip is excellent, as I thought it would be. ani should just give up on studio albums and only release live recordings of new material from now on. The new songs ("Gravel", "Hide and Seek") are really good, and some of the versions of the older material, in particular "Firedoor" and "Every State Line" would be worth the price of admission by themselves. Add to that the several snippets of goofy between-song banter, and you can just about overlook the occasional bad cuts (even I can splice things together better than some of the tracks on disc 2) and the abysmal attempt at a collaboration with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra that yielded the worst version of "Both Hands" ever (not to mention "Amazing Grace", which in my mind was out before it even stepped up to the plate anyway ;). Those missteps aside, I recommend Living in Clip to all current ani fans, and also to those who aren't quite sure they "get it", or who haven't had a chance to check her out yet. This set really captures the essence of what ani and her music are about, and as such provides the best possible introduction to her work. This is ani at her best: live and with the band. Some of the production is rather baffling (especially the cuts on the second disc), but this is an essential collection for any ani fan, and an excellent introduction for anyone interested in finding out what ani's up to these days. One of the best albums of the year. (meth@smoe.org)

I'm glad (I guess) to hear that other people are complaining about the editing of ani's live Living in Clip. I was sure mine was defective, since songs especially on the 2nd disc seem to start and end at very strange places. I still LOVE the album, and have become particularly attached to "Willing to Fight " off the 1st CD, but just keep getting annoyed when one cut ends in the middle of a word she's singing. Still, a desert island disc for me. (bye@humnet.ucla.edu)

for those times when i need to view life from a third person perspective, and when i need those times to be live and energized. Living in Clip definitely captures her live energy (which, you know, makes sense as it is a live album). So if you like her live, I would certainly recommend it, as it's also a great way to get to know her earlier work, without committing to buying any full album. (iflin@speakeasy.net)

It is fantastic! There's a real spirit and electricity to it that I think captures exactly what ani is all about perfectly. Besides songs from her club shows there are some amazing recordings of her performing with a full symphony orchestra, taken from a special multi-artist show. Anyway, this will surely be one of my favorite CDs of the summer. (carnivore@bigfoot.com)

I like Living in Clip—it's one of the rare live albums that I like as much as studio albums—I love hearing artists live, but live albums rarely catch that feeling. (Neile)

ani's energy and stage presence came through loud and clear on the CD. I was rapidly falling in love with the music and I had just passed up a golden opportunity to see her live! Major regret...more kicks to the head...I felt like the most idiotic person around. And you guys told me to check her out. I didn't listen! (Hiptones@worldnet.att.net)

Living in clip is perfect road music for me. Best moment: when I am slightly depressed by having to come back home after a great trip and that I feel sleepy and tired. ani's music fits wonderfully with this kind of "sad and dreamy" mood. (rlovejoy@comcast.net)

Mostly great music, sparks fly often, but some strange choices in the selection of tracks and bizarre editing! (afries@zip.com.au)

Yeah, the editing isn't very good and a couple of the track choices are a bit questionable, but I still love this long overdue live cd. (mcurry@io.com)

One of those rare live albums that is not just a stop-gap release between studio albums. This is ani at her best. I even like the songs with the Buffalo Philharmonic, especially "Both Hands." What can I say? I love strings. (stuart@sph.emory.edu)

i am also not fond of live discs—they have worse sound than studio records, and can't recreate being there. ani is an exception. although i'd say you don't feel like you were there listening to it, she is so much better live than on record that at least you get some of the energy from the disc. there's a less contrived, forced feeling to that record than any of her studio efforts. (barbearuh@erols.com)

I personally feel Living In Clip blows away any of her studio work, but I recognize that they are coming from two different places.... :-). (Greg Dunn)

ani in her best element, to be sure, but overall, somehow incohesive. A "live album" consisting of clips of dozens of different shows can never match the consistency and spirit of an album made from a single show or large chunks of a few shows, in my opinion. She did more than a few shows as 2 separate 40- to 60-minute sets—had the best couple of those been used instead (with perhaps outstanding performances of specific songs filling things out), Living in Clip would probably have been at the head of my list for the year. Oh, and personally, I quite like the orchestra version of "Both Hands".... 8) Can't say as I like it better than a solo guitar version, but I'm glad I got to hear it.... (rjk1@cs.wustl.edu)


Little Plastic Castle

Release info:

1998—Righteous Babe Records—RBR012-D

Availability:

Wide in U.S.

Ecto priority:

Recommended for ani fans. The verdict's still out for the rest of you.

Group members:

ani—tenor, baritone, acoustic and electric guitars, keyboards, bass pedals, drums & percussion, morse code, concertina, vox

Guest artists:

Jason Mercer—electric bass, upright bass, vox
Andy Stochansky—drums, talking drum, vox
John Mills—baritone saxophone, saxophone
Gary Slechta—trumpet
Jon Blondell—trombone
Jerry Marotta—drums
Sara Lee—bass
Andrew Gilchrist—evil machine, pump organ
Mark Hallman—pontification
Pat Martin Bradley—incantations
John Hassell—trumpet

Produced by:

ani d.

Comments:

It didn't really impress on first (or even second or third) listen, but now I absolutely love it—with the exception of that damned mariachi band on the title song, which is just too distracting for words. "Glass House" is a killer, and "Pulse" is never too long. Overall the production is vastly superior to Dilate, though I much prefer the songwriting on Dilate in terms of emotional intensity. The title track, which opens the album, starts off fine, but then these completely irrelevant horns come in and ruin the entire thing. The other songs I was already intimately familiar with from live performance, "As Is" and "Gravel" fall flat in the studio, proving once again that ani's best experienced on stage. But in two notable instances ani uses the studio to its full benefit: "Deep Dish", a groovy urban slice of life that for some reason puts images into my head of a back alley behind a '70s disco in Chicago (I have NO CLUE why, but it does), and the album's epic closer, the 14-minute "Pulse", which actually feels more like 4 minutes, and surprises me when it's over. Her voice could've used a couple extra weeks of rest before recording too, which is distracting at times. I'm afraid people who aren't all that familiar with ani's music, who come to Little Plastic Castle thanks to all the media hype which is surrounding its release are going to be wondering what all the fuss is about, but hopefully they'll find the rest of her catalog on the shelves and still be motivated to buy a ticket to her next show and finally figure it out.
      As usual, she makes a few production decisions I emphatically disagree with (LOSE the mariachi band, PLEASE!) and shows a few signs of making haste in the studio, but it's still a fun record. The 12-minute album-closing "Pulse" is worth the price of admission in itself. I haven't been motivated to listen to it in months, though. (meth@smoe.org)

The lyrics on Little Plastic Castle are clever and poetic as usual, but don't have the same narrative drive as those on Out of Range—instead, they seem to meander from one subject to another until I'm not sure just what the point of the song is. Also, many of the songs were too stripped-down for my tastes. (jwermont@netcom.com)

My first reactions were that ani sounded a little less *angry* on this latest CD (even though her lyrics often contradict that idea). She sounded (please don't flame me for this) a little more *feminine*. By that, I guess I mean that her songs were a little more *tuneful*...but there were still several of those songs where she does that fast little guitar thing with not a whole lot of melody (know what I mean?). Hands down—my favorite ani album yet! (Riphug@aol.com)

I got to play the new single from Ani DiFranco yesterday on my radio show...the title track to her new album Little Plastic Castle...very surprising...i know that she's used horns before on her albums (especially on Out of Range) but here the horns are much more prominent and the arrangement of the song seems to have had the horns in mind as a major part of the music...almost ska-ish. It's back to the old record-production-value stuff that detracts, in my opinion, from the true vitality that is Ani DiFranco. (paul2k@aol.com)

give Little Plastic Castle some time. it didn't grab me initially, but i've become addicted to it, something that's never happened before with an ani record for me. out of range was, to me, the first record she made that wasn't a total disappointment. she seemed to be getting a better hang of being in the studio, and that seems to have improved record by record. the first time i heard ani was at a show, so nothing ever lived up to seeing her perform, especially those pre-out of range records. overall, Little Plastic Castle is the most listenable for me—i don't get sick of putting it on repeat. 'swan dive' may be my favorite songs of hers ever, especially the line "i've got better things to do than survive". it seems very narrative to me—she's struggling with fame, for sure. (barbearuh@erols.com)

I haven't decided if I like this better than Dilate or not; in other words, it *could* be my favorite. :-). Typically ani; good stuff; just missed my year's top 10 by a hair. (Greg Dunn)

Somehow it doesn't grab me, and that's despite the fact that I just saw and really enjoyed ani's live performance.... I'd love to tell you how much I hate the mariachi band, but words simply fail me. I hate it, I hate it, I hate it! Especially because the title track would be a great song otherwise. (afries@zip.com.au)

actually i thought little plastic castle was a near miss. could have been great. instead was rather middling. (iflin@speakeasy.net)

For the record, I like Little Plastic Castle, especially the last 4 tracks. (burnettj@scils.rutgers.edu)

A (relatively) upbeat, tuneful album sandwiched in between two decidedly bleaker affairs, Dilate and Up Up Up Up Up Up, this album showcased ani's lyrical talent, musical ability and production experience all flowering in unison. The first album of ani's which actually put a smile on my face consistently. (afinney@ozonline.com.au)

While she's not breaking any new ground on this one, it's still a good collection of ani tunes. My only complaint is that the version of "Gravel" that made it on to the album pales in comparison to the one on Living in Clip. (stuart@sph.emory.edu)


Up Up Up Up Up Up

Release info:

1999—Righteous Babe Records—RBR013-D

Availability:

Wide in the U.S.

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

ani d—acoustic and electric guitars, vocals, space phone, water cooler, accordion, piano

Guest artists:

julie wolf—wurlitzer, organ, vocal, piano, accordion, clavinet
jason mercer—bass, upright bass, vocal, banjo
andy stochansky—drums, vocal, pocket cajun
goat—drum machine

Produced by:

ani

Comments:

The album on the whole seems much darker than Little Plastic Castle—sort of like Dilate I guess, but more understated and improv-ish. This is a looser album, perhaps reflecting the success of Living In Clip, yet still retaining the last two albums' experimentation—lots of wurlitzers and thingies.
     The lyrics are excellent, in my opinion her best yet, but the music has yet to do much for me. The songs aren't exactly tuneful (with the exception of the beautiful "Angry Anymore"), but give it time and I might just like ani's latest style more than her earlier ones. It is excellent—but because I don't know where it rates in the ani scheme of things. It probably won't enter my (un)holy triumvirate, Imperfectly, Not A Pretty Girl and Little Plastic Castle, but it stands up well next to Out of Range and Dilate. Which means bloody amazing.
     The general vibe of the album is that of a downbeat jam. The music has the dark angularity of Dilate, plus the Hammond organ again, but with the (non-studio) experimentation of "Fuel". This is as live as anything she's done since the early records, but with a full time keyboardist/organist/wurlitzer player as well, which makes the sound very unique for an ani album.
     "'Tis Of Thee", the opener, starts with a softly plucked guitar and ani's voice in much the same way as Little Plastic Castle. It's a very sad song about the persecution of other races by White America, with typically brilliant lyrics. Unlike Little Plastic Castle it doesn't suddenly explode in the chorus. In fact it stays very very soft, with only a little organ accompaniment in the background. It's probably ani's most understated opener yet.
     Things pick up with "Virtue", which is all clanging guitars and funky touches. Musically it reminds me a bit of "Asking Too Much" and "Glass House", although perhaps a more accurate description would be "Outta You" strained through "Fuel". Sounds weird? It is, with this funky bridge and ani both singing the words and snarling in the background. Lyrically, it's one of my favourite songs here, with one of ani's best lyrical tricks—much of the song is based around how horrible good sunsets can be in the wrong circumstances, which fits into the opening line, "Virtue is relative at best."
     "Come Away From It" slows things down again. Opening with just ani singing the title against an organ, the first part of this eight-and-a-half minute song seems a bit unnecessarily long, but once it gets started it's excellent. Again very downbeat, the story is very similar to "Two Little Girls", only this time ani is watching her lover get wasted by drugs. As it builds up it become almost a hymn, with all the band singing along. It only gets better over its entire length.
     "Jukebox" speeds things up again, all squealing guitars, particularly a compressed riff which sounds like a piece of machinery. It's like an electrified "Superhero". ani's voice is distorted and shrill, and the tempo has a very stop-start nature to it reminiscent of "Pixie", but lyrically this could come from the first song, a lovely portrait of an abandoned woman. Once again ani forms amazingly complex metaphors with seeming ease. One of my favourite songs.
     "Angel Food" is again slower. There's a very trippy, bluesy jam feel to this track, sort of like "Pixie", but even more so if you know what I mean. Although for the most part it's very good, towards the end it loses its tune and just goes nowhere for me. There's lots of studio conversation and gimmicky "it sounded funny at the time" samples, but for the most part, despite being under six minutes, it's far too long.
     As if acknowledging this, ani follows it with the most succinct, direct song on the album. "Angry Anymore" is an absolutely gorgeous fast-tempo ballad, with an ancestry stretching right back to "Both Hands", and encompassing such other great songs as "Falling Is Like This" and "Loom". The song, mainly an absolution to ani's father, is made ten times better by the excellent decision to play much of it on a banjo.
     Strangely ani decides to put the two most recognisably ani tracks together. "Everest" is, if possible, even more beautiful than "Angry Anymore". Similar to "Overlap", but much much better, it deserves to be an out-and-out ani classic. The fantastic lyrics which don't look like much on the page but sound great in the context of the song, only make up half of this excellent piece. If ani didn't sing them so beautifully (note: much of ani's singing on this album is harsh, so when it becomes magically clear and smooth, it makes an amazing contrast) they wouldn't have the effect they do. This is probably my favourite song at the moment.
     "Up Up Up Up Up Up" has a little funky opening on bass, with some jarring, dissonant electric guitar, but for the most part is very sparse, with a nice but undemanding tune. You begin to think it's not going anywhere when suddenly it turns into this full-fledged...um...power-ballad! Well, not in the Celine sense, but there's all these pianos, wurlizters and military like drums everywhere. It's simply brilliant, indeed it's my favourite moment on the entire album, but you get the feeling that something better's coming, because it builds into this huge climax when suddenly...we're back to the opening tune, where ani recaps the first verse before it stops. This trick works very well, and is very clever, but I still wish a bit that the middle section was longer.
     "Know Now Then" is another one of those funkified electric snarls in the same vein as "Virtue". It all sounds very interesting, but I think it's still a bit too far down in the track listing for me to have absorbed it properly yet.
     "Trickle Down" is the darkest track here, basically an acoustic guitar, an accordion and a water cooler, it almost has no tune at all, which is the entire point. Instead ani's voice carries the tune, although really in spirit this is much more akin to her spoken word pieces ("Tiptoe"?) in its intensity. ani basically talks about the slow destruction of Buffalo, in a much more direct and angry way than "Cradle And All" did. It's a very powerful, moving track, but I'm not sure if I actually *like* it if you know what I mean.
     At 13 minutes, "Hat Shaped Hat" is basically "Pulse" part two, although in many ways they could not be more different. Where "Pulse" was slow, abstract and beautiful, "Hat" is a riotous beast which flops and flounders all over the place. Where "Pulse" sounded very deliberate, as if ani had spent a year just thinking about the song before she allowed the band to participate, "Hat" sounds like an of-the-moment, "come on guys just do what you want" kind of thing. Opening with an enormous racket which eventually becomes a cascading set of drum machines operated by Goat Boy, it jams from the beginning, with ani rousing herself with a shouting match with one of the band members, before finally actually starting the song, which is sort of similar to "The Diner". The lyrics are quite throwaway and jokey, though that's only a relative thing 'cos this is ani we're talking about here. The obvious concession to the idea of "jamming" is that ani will suddenly stop singing the song and just start repeating the last line or yelling or something. It basically runs through twice, the second time both tighter in places and less restricted in others. While none of its 13 minutes starts to get boring, it doesn't feel as magical as "Pulse" to me. Maybe because much of it seems intent on saying "Look how much fun we're having!" Which is fine for the band, but leaves the listener somewhat mystified.
     I really really like some of the lyrics here. "Jukebox" is perhaps the best example of her "hey look I can extend a metaphor longer than anybody!" style, "Tiptoe" only comes second because it uses two instead of one (but the negative aspects of sunsets is an inspired song choice) and "Everest" is so beautiful and forlorn that I can picture the entire scenario. Also her writing seems more focused and intense than on her last album, where she at times seemed a bit too impressed with her own wordsmithery. Perhaps it's just that on the new album she doesn't put much into it vocally (with the obvious exception of "Everest"), and so it sounds half-hearted. In concert, songs which sounded that way, like "Know Now Then", bowled me over with the devotion ani seemed to invest in the lyrics.
     Anyway, there's my opinion. It'll probably change tomorrow, but it's the best I can do for now. In summation: Up Up Up Up Up Up is another great, ambitious, though at times slightly patchy, album from ani. It shows an entirely new direction for her music, though considering her two previous albums, it's one she may choose not to follow. For now though, it's a wonderful place to visit. (afinney@ozonline.com.au)

I like Up Up Up Up Up Up, especially "Tis of Thee", "Angry Anymore" and the title track. (burnettj@scils.rutgers.edu)

gag!...the redeemable songs are "tis of thee", "juke box", "trickle down". What happened to her social critique?!? Yet even more accessible than Dilate. "angry anymore", which seems to be everybody's favorite, just really comes out as a weak song especially compared to her other work. the message some of her fans have gotten is: "since i married a man with a big ol' dick i am no longer angry anymore"...god, I feel like the grrl police here ;-) don't get me wrong, it's an awesome album by virtue of being authored by ani, but in comparison to the other ones, it pales. (shye@uclink4.berkeley.edu)

I never thought I could say this, but I hated this album when I first got it. I had looked forward to it for so long, and I was so disappointed, and the only reason I didn't sell it was because it was ani. It's an interesting mix because there are these simple songs like her early albums, and then there are these rock, electric songs that push way further her recent experimentation. I like the first kind of songs better ("Tis of Thee", "Angry Any More", "Everest") though of the latter group, I really like "Virtue". Overall I don't think it's a great album, and even the better songs on it are not ani's stronger work, but it's still worth having, because it is ani. (JoAnn Whetsell)

Up Up Up Up Up Up was the only thing I listened to for like 4 months.... (John.Drummond)

I like Up Up Up Up Up Up which is a relief to me after for some reason Little Plastic Castle just didn't make that much of an impression on me. I didn't hate the horns, but they just didn't intrigue me, while the sound of this one is more quirky and hooky to me. However, I still don't think it's one of her best albums, mostly because it has some of ani's most didactic lyrics. It's a good one, but doesn't seem to me to be ani at her best. (Neile)

The most disappointing ani I've ever heard. After six or so listens, still nothing stands out. I thought this was going to be the one album where everything comes together (Little Plastic Castle almost was there), but instead she seems drained and her lyrics are tepid. (miazgama@pilot.msu.edu)

It has taken me a few listens to get into this new ani album. It still hasn't found its way down deep inside, and I am not sure it will ever penetrate as deep as Dilate, but I am enjoying it and finding more in it as I listen more. I found the same thing to be true of Little Plastic Castle, too. I think ani is finding more depth and layers in her writing and musical stuff (and yes that is a technical term :-). (Horter3)

I think Up Up Up Up Up Up is very good as far as production (awesome little things in there just add to it), but I for some reason can't get into it as much as say, Dilate or Not a Pretty Girl. Lyrically Up Up Up Up Up Up is very good...something about Up Up Up Up Up Up, though—it just doesn't do much for me...though I must say I love "tis of thee," even if the chord progressions are the exact same as an old Rolling Stones song ;) (Songbird22@aol.com)

i know a lot of people have been describing it as a "difficult" listen, but my thoughts are that it is really good...it's yet another musical progression for ani, and that's one of the things i love best about her—from the word go (namely her self-titled debut) she has continued to evolve and mature, and that's why i think it is relatively pointless for me to sit here and try and draw comparisons ie: "it's very different to Little Plastic Castle, kind of more like dilate"...it *is* different, but it's also very good, and i think most listeners of ani's music will tend to come at it from that angle. i'd certainly recommend it, though no doubt everybody will have their individual opinions (as it should be!). (maier@joynet.com.au)


To the Teeth

Release info:

1999—Righteous Babe Records—RBR017-D

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Ani DiFranco—tenor, electric, acoustic, and acoustic baritone guitars, basses, steel drum kit, megaphone, bells, triangle, drums, banjo, piano, organ, vocals

Guest artists:

Jason Mercer—upright, electric, and upright bowed basses, banjo
Julie Wolf—organ, accordion, wurlitzer, clavinet, piano, bass rhodes, melodica, boys choir, vocals
Daren Hahn—drums, turntables
Brian Wolf—tuba, trumpet, trombone
Kurt Swinghammer—atmospheric guitars, electric guitar
Maceo Parker—flute, saxophone
Irvin Mayfield—trumpet
Mark Mullins—trombone
Crickets—legs
Corey Parker—rap on "Swing"
Kingsway Clap and Stomp Corps—clapping on "Swing"
Artist Formerly Known As Prince—vocals on "Providence"

Produced by:

Ani DiFranco

Comments:

I really like "Swing", except for the unfortunate guest rap (which I think would be a strong contender for worst rap ever recorded award).
     It's funny. A lot of people on ecto have been hailing this as her best album since Dilate. I say funny because I guess I'm having a similar reaction as I did to Dilate. There are some songs I really like, and some that just never grow on me. And some that just go on too long. ani's long songs (like the last track on Little Plastic Castle and a lot of tracks on Up Up Up Up Up Up) tend to lose me after a while. I really like the first 5 minutes of the title track, but then the extra 2 minutes of improv horns just doesn't do anything for me. (Well, sometimes it gets on my nerves, but it hasn't done anything positive for me yet) And as I said "Swing" has a really cool groove, but then that god-awful rap is thrown in there for only-god-knows-what-reason.
     I do like it better than Up Up Up Up Up Up (although that album is starting to grow on me a bit too) but not as much as Little Plastic Castle, which I think remains the most different of all her albums. But it seems like it combines the style of Dilate and the earlier albums with some of the experimentation of Up Up Up Up Up Up, for mostly really neat results.
     And yes, there are some tracks I like in their entirety, like "Hello Birmingham".
     Later: i listened to it again and thought, whoa! this is brilliant! how come i didn't realize this the first time? well, i guess that happens sometimes, and re-discovery moments can be quite fun. i still don't like the tubas on "to the teeth" or the rap on "swing" but the rest is about as good as it gets. (JoAnn Whetsell)

i really didn't like either Little Plastic Castle or Up Up Up Up Up Up and haven't liked an album by her since Dilate, but i think most older ani fans will really really like to the teeth.
     not only is a return to her older style, it seems to infuse some of her playfulness and experimentation of the last two albums as well. i find a great synthesis of her later stuff and the older ani that i love.
     i think that her last two albums were very much transitional albums, that seemed to culminate in this album.
     most of the album is quite good, with collaborative songs with the Artist Formerly Known As Prince and Maceo Parker.
     one song seems tout of place on the CD though, called "Freakshow". her vocals seem to really sound like Alanis Morissette. take that for what you will. i found it a bit disturbing, but it isn't a bad song per se. just a little too much nasal belting for me. (iflin@speakeasy.net)

ani's back!!! This is, to be brief, the best thing she has released since Not A Pretty Girl. Now I understand what she was trying to get at in Little Plastic Castle and Up Up Up Up Up Up: here, finally, the folk-jazz-groove elements she's been messing with lately all come together and make sense. There are even two old-time ani rant songs: "To The Teeth" is a bit too heavy-handed in its completely unsubtle rhetoric, but "Hello Birmingham" is one of the most affecting songs she's ever done, and it slays me every time I hear it. I love the way most of the tracks flow into one another, helping the listener glide along the journey with her. The experiments here, up to and including the wonderful "Freakshow" don't fall on their face, though since I've never been a rap fan Maceo Parker's little bit grew old after the second listen. Still, this is a disc that makes me feel good every time I listen to it. ani hasn't been able to do that to me in way too long.
     This is definitely her best album since Dilate. Hell, it might even beat out Dilate someday. I don't think anything can ever replace Not A Pretty Girl as my favorite ani album, but I have a feeling this one is going to give it a run for its money. (meth@smoe.org)

I love the lyrics to "to the teeth", that is an amazing tune.... (Songbird22@aol.com)

An awesome disc! I can't get enough of it. I really dig "Swing"—such a funky tune. Highly recommended. (Matt.Bittner)

The first song, "To The Teeth", that did it for me. No one can say and sing it like ani. (jsutton@rahul.net)

The best of ani's albums since Dilate for me—I find the overall sound and lyrics more compelling than either Little Plastic Castle or Up Up Up Up Up Up.... Not too much to say about it other than this is one of her better albums to my ears. Not quite another Dilate which I couldn't stop playing but definitely a repeat play. (Neile)


swing set (EP)

Release info:

2000—Righteous Babe Records—RBR020-D

Availability:

Wide on release

Ecto priority:

Recommended for fans only

Group members:

ani—bass, acoustic guitar, megaphone, bells, triangle, vocals, keyboards, drum programming, samples, vocals

Guest artists:

Julie Wolf—wurlitzer, organ
Daren Hahn—turntables, drums
Maceo Parker—saxophone
Kingsway clap and stomp corps—clapping
Gillian Welch—backup vocals
David Rawlings—guitar
Bo Ramsey—guitar
Jason Mercer—bass

Produced by:

ani d.

Comments:

I'm such a git that I'll buy remixes and singles sometimes just to get a song by an artist that doesn't appear anywhere else. This is one of those cases. It has two versions of "swing" (a song I like quite a lot) but these are just a radio set (which doesn't have the rap section—yay) and the album version. It also has a remix of "to the teeth" which starts with a looped gunshot, well, I already thought the song was remarkably unsubtle so I don't much care for this. I do like her live version of Woody Guthrie's "Do Re Me" and Phil Och's "When I'm gone". I tend to like the first version I hear of any song best, so maybe because I like them so much because I don't know the originals, since I don't like her version of Dylan's "Hurricane" so very much but she sure sings it with passion, though. Cranky me. (Neile)

I LOVE ani's version of "Hurricane". (RocketsTail@aol.com)


revelling/reckoning

Release info:

2001—Righteous Babe Records—RBR024-D

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Recommended

Group members:

Ani DiFranco—acoustic guitar, electric guitar, acoustic and electric baritone guitars, tenor guitar, drums, key bass, tamburitza, tongue drum, bass, shakers, piano, voices on "tamburitza lingua," honky keys on "beautiful night," singing

Guest artists:

Daren Hahn—drums, percussion, shakers, voice on "what how when where (why who)"
Jason Mercer—bass, acoustic bass, bowed bass, kazoo, voice on 2 tracks
Julie Wolf—Rhodes, accordion, clavinet, piano, organ, melodica, pianet, voice on 1 track, singing
Hans Teuber—flute, saxophone, clarinet, bass clarinet, voice on 1 track, singing
Shane Endsley—trumpet, shakers, whammy trumpet on "beautiful night," voice on 1 track
Maceo Parker—singing on "ain't that the way," saxophone solo on "what how when where (why who)"
Scot Fisher—voice on "beautiful night"
Lloyd Maines—pedal steel on "sick of me"
Mark Hallman—singing on "sick of me"
Jon Hassell—trumpet on "revelling"

Produced by:

Ani DiFranco

Comments:

I wonder if the silence on ecto about this album is for the same reason that I've been silent about it—it does (neither disc) little to draw me in and make me listen to it. Revelling actively puts me off—I'm must not interested in this direction her music has taken, and Reckoning is slowly growing on me, though seems like things she's done better at other times. Cool packaging, and I expect to like Reckoning more as time goes on. I'm not sure I can even bear to give Revelling another chance. I'm just not going where she is these days, I guess. (Neile)

The album just came out yesterday actually...I am really loving it, the revelling disc especially! (RocketsTail@aol.com)

Yup, that album blows my world to bits. (John.Drummond)


So Much Shouting, So Much Laughter

Release info:

2002—Righteous Babe Records—RBR029-D

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Ani DiFranco—all guitars, voice

Guest artists:

Julie Wolf—all keyboards, voice
Hans Teuber—saxophone, flute, clarinet, voice
Jason Mercer—bass
Daren Hahn—drums
Ravi Best—trumpet
Todd Horton—trumpet
Shane Endsley—trumpet

Produced by:

Ani DiFranco

Comments:

I'm enjoying it very much. A great live double CD that brilliantly showcases where Ms. DiFazio is now. I'd be happy if she put out nothing but live albums going forward—she's really got a knack for capturing the feeling of her shows, and showcasing the ample talents of the people in her band. Plus, buying a live album saves me from having to deal with her fans at one of her actual concerts!
     If nothing else, this album deserves a place in every CD collection for the presence of "Self-Evident": the most direct, succinct, and heartfelt statement of resistance to the current American regime and its policies I've heard yet. Brava! (meth@smoe.org)

High praise, also, for So much Shouting, So Much Laughter—just when I was getting tired of her, she goes and releases one of the best live albums of all time, displaying fun, insight and commitment (and a refreshing political stance, in that she displays one when others—apart from Mr. Earle—have been notably silent). (adamk@zoom.co.uk)


Evolve

Release info:

2003—Righteous Babe Records—RBR030-D

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Ani DiFranco—all guitars, piano on "o my my," & "Phase," voice

Guest artists:

Julie Wolf—melodica, organ, Rhodes, piano, clavinet, voice
Hans Teuber—all saxophones, clarinets, flute, voice
Jason Mercer—bass
Daren Hahn—drums & percussion
Shane Endsley—trumpet
Ravi Best—trumpet, voice
Todd Horton—trumpet, flugelhorn

Comments:

A few weeks ago, before Evolve came out I pulled out all my Ani DiFranco discs and listened to them in order. That's everything except Up Up Up Up Up Up and Revelling/Reckoning (which I sold back) and Like I Said and the Swing ep which I never bought.
     It's interesting to note the progression from ani to ani and back-up to ani and band to ani as bandleader. With Evolve, she's taken a bit of a step backwards in time stylistically. There are still a lot of horns as on the past few records. But the song "Slide" sounds a lot like "If It Isn't Her" from Imperfectly. Most songs are acoustic, and some are solo or close to solo.
     I think the album art/packaging is the best yet of any of her albums. Her lyrics are as sharp as ever. She steers pretty clear of politics, at least overtly, except for the title track "Evolve" and the 10-minute "Serpentine" which rips on national politics, the recent corporate scandals, education, the music industry, and other social issues.
     All that said, it did take the album a few listens to grow on me and for the songs to start individuating themselves and turning into earworms. (That's when I know I like an album, when various songs start replaying themselves in my head.) I think it's true that most of her recent work has needed more listening and growing time than her previous work. That's partly because of the arrangements and also a bit of how she uses her voice on some songs. Looking back, I wish I'd spent more time with Revelling/Reckoning. Perhaps I wouldn't have sold it back. Certainly, I thought So Much Shouting, So Much Laughter was really well done when I first got it, but it's only been recently that I'm really *enjoying* it.
     Having heard "Shrug" and "Welcome To:" (which closes out the first disc of So Much Shouting, So Much Laughter as well as Evolve) previously also made Evolve a little easier to get into.
     I think it's a really good disc (though I may never like the song "O My My"). Definitely worth getting if you've been a fan, especially if you've liked her recent work. But it may still grow on you, even if you haven't liked her last couple of albums so much. It certainly did on me.
     And if not, you can always find comfort in supporting an artist who undoubtedly can be considered one of the most original, provocative, passionate, and committed of our time. (JoAnn Whetsell)

Educated Guess

Release info:

2004—Righteous Babe Records—RBR034-D

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Recommended

Group members:

Ani DiFranco—playing, singing

Comments:

All these months and I still don't really know what to say about this album. Overall it doesn't grab me as much as her previous work, and I don't listen to it as much as her other albums. Billed as a return to her solo, DIY roots, it is that, but with the sensibility of an artist who's been exploring a lot of musical terrain for many years. On the first few listens the band seemed missing in a way, but it doesn't seem that way to me now. There seems to be less jazz influences than her most recent work, though more blues, and just more of her own idiosyncratic alterna-folk. There's also more experimentation—guitars that sound distorted somehow and dissonant. She also uses her voice in ways I haven't heard before, and perhaps that's where she really loses me.
     So the album is both like and unlike her previous work, and I both like and dislike it, in ways I can't really describe. Still, it's Ani, and at times it's quite powerful. I feel like I still don't really "get it" yet, but it's intriguing enough to continue to try. (JoAnn Whetsell)

Atlanta 10.9.03

Release info:

2004—Righteous Babe Records—RBR036-D

Availability:

Righteous Babe Records website and live shows

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Ani DiFranco—all guitars, voice

Comments:

The first in Ani's official bootleg series, this performance combines the best of her Educated Guess sensibility and her earlier work. And because it's one show, her concert personality really shines through. Some songs ("Two Little Girls", "Names and Dates and Times") sound quite different than previous album and concert versions while others don't. I like her Educated Guess songs better here in their pre-studio-album versions. "Grand Canyon" is stronger as just text, and "Bubble" sounds better without all the dissonance and distortion. There's a particularly fierce version of "Phase", and I'm glad to hear songs like "Subdivision" and a really joyful "Everest" which are on albums I don't listen to all that often. (JoAnn Whetsell)

Knuckle Down

Release info:

2005—Righteous Babe Records—RBR042-D

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Ani DiFranco—voice and guitar

Guest artists:

Todd Sickafoose—string bass, Wurlitzer (3)
Patrick Warren—chamberlin, piano, sampler
Jay Bellerose—drums and percussion
Andrew Bird—violin, glockenspiel, whistling (2, 3, 7, 9, 12)
Tony Scherr—electric guitar (4, 8, 10, 12)
Noe Venable—voice (2, 3, 10)
Julie Wolf—melodica (11)
Niki Haris—voice (10)

Produced by:

Ani DiFranco and Joe Henry

Comments:

I continue to buy every album Ani puts out, even if over the last few years I do so without much expectation. So I was happily surprised when I popped in Knuckle Down, sound unheard, review unread. From the first moments I knew something was different. This is the back-to-form album that Educated Guess was touted as being but wasn't. It's a far better album than Educated Guess, and somehow more intimate even though she's involved more people (a co-producer and a number of instrumentalists). Most of the songs are very personal and deal with her divorce. But of all Ani's albums, I find myself listening to the sound of this one the most, not to knock the lyrics, but the band is tight and there are some great grooves and atmospherics. It seems to take the best of her newer (Evolve on) style and mix it with her older (Dilate, Not a Pretty Girl) style. Definitely worth checking out if you're an Ani fan, even if you were disappointed with the last 2 albums. (JoAnn Whetsell)

Carnegie Hall 4.6.02

Release info:

2006—Righteous Babe Records—RBR051-D

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended for fans

Group members:

Ani DiFranco—guitar, voice

Comments:

Ani's solo April 6, 2002 concert at Carnegie Hall is the first of her live bootleg series to be officially released. The set contained one of the first performances of "Self Evident," and that alone makes it worth buying (also Ani's notes on the show). But the whole album is excellent, a mix of personal and political songs. Much can be made of the fact that this show took place in New York City a mere 7 months after the events of September 11, 2001, and that, of course, adds a level of profundity to the set, particularly the songs "Self Evident" and "Serpentine." But I think it would be a shame to only listen to the album in that context. It's also just a concert, one of many, and a very good one at that. It's also interesting to listen to the album in the context of her whole career—early acoustic songs and later band songs are all stripped down to Ani—voice, guitar, and the power of her words. (JoAnn Whetsell)

Reprieve

Release info:

2006—Righteous Babe Records—RBR052-D

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Ani DiFranco—all other instruments, sounds, singin, mixin, what have you

Guest artists:

Todd Sickafoose—acoustic bass, Wurlitzer (3, 6, 7), pump organ (1, 5, 11), "trumpet" and "strings" (8)
Mike Napolitano—recordist, mix doctor
Saint Claude—traffic, trains, birds, rain, thunder, frogs

Produced by:

Ani DiFranco

Comments:

Personally, I haven't been that excited by any of her albums for a while; I think the last I really like was Dilate but I'm enjoying Reprieve so far. It's not angry or flashy, though that's not to say it's sedate or resigned. She's still addressing the usual political and social issues but at a slower pace and with a very reflective mood: rumination rather than revolution, if that makes any sense. (woj@smoe.org)

Reprieve, I feel, ratchets the production quality up even farther. I believe it may be the best-produced album of her career. I suspect that since she's been unable to tour do to a wrist injury thing (the first break she's taken since 1990), she funneled some of that OCD energy into perfectly crafting this album with the intention that someone like Kate Bush would. The songscape is rich and evocative and the songs have a lot of room to breathe. The instrumentation is more varied than usual, but all of it done by Ani and Todd Sickafoose themselves and exists as subtle coloration. Her guitar technique seems more varied, not always as heavy and bassy as in the past, and sometimes she even lets simpler playing make room for lovely bass solo or piano and the like. I found it instantly inviting on first listen and also surprisingly haunting. (timjy@sbcglobal.net)


Canon

Release info:

2007—Righteous Babe Records—RBR055-D

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Ani DiFranco—acoustic, steel, electric, bass, tenor and acoustic baritone guitars; piano; thumb piano; percussion; bass; shakers; Wurlitzer; vibes; vocals

Guest artists:

Rory McLeod—harmonica
Andy Stochansky—drums, percussion, vocals
Alisdair Jones—bass
Michael Ramos—Hammond organ
Sara Lee—bass, vocals
Jason Mercer—bass, electric bass
John Mills—baritone sax
Gary Slechta—trumpet
Jon Blondell—trombone
Jerry Marotta—drums
Todd Sickafoose—bass on "Napoleon"; string bass; Wurlitzer; acoustic bass; piano; pump organ; upright bass on "Both Hands" and "Overlap"
Mike Dillon—vibraphone on "Napoleon"; vibes on "Your Next Bold Move" and "Overlap"; percussion on "Your Next Bold Move"
Allison Miller—drums on "Napoleon," "Both Hands," and "Overlap"; percussion on "Both Hands"
Joseph Arthur—background vocals on "Napoleon"
Greg Dulli—Wurlitzer on "Napoleon"
Julie Wolf—piano, organ, Rhodes, accordion, melodica, clavinet, singing
Daren Hahn—drums, percussion, shakers
Hans Teuber—clarinets, saxophones, flute, voice
Shande Endsley—trumpet, shakers
Ravi Best—trumpet, voice
Todd Horton—trumpet, flugelhorn
Patrick Warren—chamberlin, piano, sampler
Jay Bellerose—drums, percussion
Tony Scherr—electric guitar
Noe Venable—voice
Niki Haris—voice
Andrew Bird—violin, glockenspiel, whistling
David Torkanowsky—keyboards and bass on "Your Next Bold Move"; percussion on "Both Hands"; Wurlitzer on "Overlap"

Produced by:

Ani DiFranco

Comments:

16 years and 16 albums of original music distilled into a 36-song, 2-disc set. I might have made some different choices about which tracks to include, but I can't really complain about what's here. It all flows really well, and while it doesn't cover the full range of her styles, it provides an enjoyable trip through her career. The 5 new recordings (of previously released songs) are all good too. The set is also well-packaged, and it's nice to have lyrics for all the songs. I'm also glad she didn't include one of those "this is an important artist" essays that seem ubiquitous in retrospectives these days. It would have been nice to hear her own thoughts on her career though. (JoAnn Whetsell)

With any compilation like this, there's inevitably going to be tracks you want included that were left out... Or tracks included that you question. I think "Buildings and Bridges" could easily get bounced for something else more interesting from Out of Range. "Letter to a John" stands out as the most classic. But I'm also a fan of the title track, "Hell Yeah," and "Love is Like Falling." The choice of "Buildings and Bridges" sort of puzzles me.
    It seems evident from the omissions that Up Up Up Up Up Up, Imperfectly, and Dilate are not Ani's favorite recordings (we already know via Like I Said that she despises her first two). Interesting, since I too have always considered them her weakest. But I do think that Up Up Up Up Up Up's "Angry Anymore" is one of her most accomplished bits of songwriting, and would have loved to see it included here.
    I'm also very partial to To the Teeth, which is relatively unrepresented here. I'm particularly fond of "Wish I May" (one of my all-time favorite Ani songs, actually), "Back Back Back" and "Going Once."
    In general, she seems to have chosen not to emphasize the band leader jazz experimentation phase of her career—"Here for Now" (which is fantastic) is really the only representation of that style. Most of the songs from these albums (Up Up Up Up Up Up through Evolve) are her more melancholic solo-ish ballads. This is kind of too bad, since I've always been a strong defender of her oft-maligned jazz jams. At the same time, the ballads are some of the strongest most emotionally visceral material of her entire career, and she's chosen some of the best, particularly "Marrow" and "Grey.
    I like *some* of the new recordings. I actually think this may be the best version of "Napoleon" yet. And I understand why she doesn't like the bass-heavy production of the Dilate version... But...I miss some of the old vocal tics from "Shameless."
    I'm less enthused by "Both Hands" (just not necessary) and "Your Next Bold Move" and "Overlap," both of which seem less emotionally committed than the originals. Like she's giving them musical makeovers (which sound great, that's not the issue) while forgetting what they're about and what makes them special. "Your Next Bold Move," as originally recorded, really accurately captured the sense of desolation (and very slight ember of hope) leftists were feeling at the dawn of the new millennium. This version feels much less meaningful. Similarly, "Overlap" is a beautiful, tentative song about intimacy. Here it feels too casual and up tempo for the kind of depth the singer is seeking. (timjy@sbcglobal.net)


Red Letter Year

Release info:

2008—Righteous Babe—RBR063-D

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Ani DiFranco—tenor, electric, acoustic, and 12-string guitars; guitar synth; percussion; optigon; Wurlitzer; synthesizers; ukuleles; vocals

Guest artists:

Todd Sickafoose—fender bass, piano, Wurlitzer, pump organ, bowed basses, synthesizer, string arrangements
Mike Dillon—marimba, tubular bells, vibraphone, percussion
Allison Miller—drums, percussion
Jenny Schienman—violin
Megan Gould—violin
Jessica Troy—viola
Marika Hughes—cello
CC Adcock—electric guitar
Richard Comeaux—pedal steel
Animal Prufrock—piano, percussion
Jeff Klein—vocals (6)
Rene Lopez—percussion
Jon Hassell—trumpet
Phil Frazier (The Rebirth Brass Band)—tuba (band leader)
Shorty Frazier (The Rebirth Brass Band)—bass drum
Derrick Tabb (The Rebirth Brass Band)—snare drum
Derrick Shezbie (The Rebirth Brass Band)—trumpet
Glen Andrews (The Rebirth Brass Band)—trumpet
Stafford Agee (The Rebirth Brass Band)—trombone
Corey Henry (The Rebirth Brass Band)—trombone
Vincent Broussard (The Rebirth Brass Band)—saxophone
Byron (Flee) Bernard (The Rebirth Brass Band)—saxophone

Produced by:

Mike Napolitano and Ani DiFranco

Comments:

Ani's albums have been pretty hit or miss in recent years, and this one's mostly hit. The lyrics are more domestic than political, but the sound is eclectic, from New Orleans to disco with plenty of acoustic and folk/rock music too. (JoAnn Whetsell)

An honorable mention for the best of the year. (timjy@sbcglobal.net)

Ani has released some important albums during her career (see: Little Plastic Castle and Dilate). Unfortunately, Red Letter Year is a big disappointment in what seems like a stream of subpar releases. This album left me questioning if I even care for Ani Difranco anymore. The lyrics and music are just so mediocre and unappealing, I can't muster any enthusiasm anymore. I will always cherish some of her earlier work, but am giving up hope on her releasing another masterpiece anytime soon, if ever. (lasherboy@gmail.com)


¿Which Side Are You On?

Release info:

2012—Righteous Babe Records

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended for fans

Comments:

I like the sound of this album. It's jaunty and loose and reminds me a bit of some of the tracks on to the teeth, but more laidback. It starts off well, both musically and lyrically, with "Life Boat," a moving portrait of a homeless person. The title track is a fierce version of the classic song with new lyrics addressing contemporary politics (I love the trumpets). The album sags a little bit in the middle, and some might find it boring. I think lyrically she's better here, just talking about life and love than she is on more overtly issue-oriented songs like the final track, "Zoo." The biggest disappointment is "Amendment," an overtly political song about women's rights (spurred by recent amendments restricting abortions) that lacks the subtlety of her earlier work and is, to me, far less interesting and effective because of it (the lyrics are also disappointing because I like the music). Overall I think it's a pretty strong, and enjoyable, collection of songs. (JoAnn Whetsell)

Since 1977, not a year had gone by without a release from Ani DiFranco when the streak suddenly stopped with 2008's Red Letter Year. Loosening her tight release schedule certainly paid off: ¿Which Side Are You On? feels a lot more complete than Red Letter Year or Reprieve and, as always, it contains some pretty fierce songwriting. (raschee@gmail.com)


Further info:

All of ani's discs are available directly from Righteous Babe Records, P.O. Box 95, Ellicott Station, Buffalo, NY 14205, U.S.A. Phone: 1-800-on-her-own.

DVDs: Render: Spanning Time with Ani DiFranco (2002) and Trust (2004). She appears on Best of Sessions at West 54th Vol. 1 DVD.

Books: She has written a book of poetry: Self-Evident: poesie e disegni. The book Verses (song lyrics, sketches, and a conversation with spoken word artist Sekou Sundiata) was released in 2007. "Self Evident" appears in Dissent in America: The Voices That Shaped a Nation (2006), edited by Ralph Young.

Compilations: Ani's songs appear on several compilations and soundtracks, and she has provided guest vocals on several albums. Recordings not available on her own releases include: "Wishin' And Hopin'" on the My Best Friend's Wedding soundtrack (1997) and O Casamento Do Meu Melhor Amigo (2003); "My Name Is Lisa Kalvelage" on Where Have All The Flowers Gone: The Songs of Pete Seeger (1998); "Do Re Me" on Til We Outnumber 'Em: The Songs of Woody Guthrie (2000), a compilation she also produced; "This Land Is Your Land" and "When I'm Gone" on the Steal This Movie soundtrack (2000); "Used Cars" on Badlands: A Tribute To Bruce Springsteen's Nebraska (2000); "The Poet Game" on Going Driftless: An Artists' Tribute To Greg Brown (2002); "Unforgettable" (with Jackie Chan) on When Pigs Fly (2002); "Bring Them Home" (with Pete Seeger, Billy Bragg, and Steve Earle) on the 2003 Pete Seeger and Friends album Seeds and the 2007 Appleseed Recordings compilation Sowing the Seeds—The 10th Anniversary; and "Waist Deep in the Big Muddy" on Sowing the Seeds—The 10th Anniversary.

Live recordings not available on her own releases include: "Buildings and Bridges" on Best Of Mountain Stage Live, Vol. 8 (1995); "Egos Like Hairdos" on Women Live From Mountain Stage (1996); "Courtesy Of" on D.I.Y.-Fest Vol. 1 (2001); "Evolve" on Bonnaroo Music Festival 2004 (2005); "What If No One's Watching" on Live At The Cedar: Visionaries (2006); "Manhole" on Red Rocks Live: Carved In Stone Vol. 3 (2007).


Thanks to Neal Copperman and JoAnn Whetsell for work on this entry.

Why the ads?
the Ectophiles' Guide: * Guide Home* What's new* * Alphabetical* Genre* Commentator* Location* Random artist* Search* Contact the editors* Credits

DISCLAIMER: Comments and reviews in the Ectophiles' Guide are excerpted from the ecto mailing list or volunteered by members of the list. They are the opinions of music enthusiasts, not professional music critics.

Entry last updated 2013-06-09 20:51:18.
Please request permission if you wish to
reproduce any of the comments in the
Ectophiles' Guide in any context.

The Ectophiles' Guide to Good Music is copyright © 1996-2004 by the editors.
Individual comments are copyright © by their authors.
Web site design and programming copyright © 1998-2004 usrbin design + programming.
All rights reserved.