46 of 51 people found the following review helpful
on August 28, 2012
Format: Audio CDVerified Purchase
Alanis Morissette will not earn many new converts with "Havoc and Bright Lights," but she will keep her devoted fan base pleased with this smart, sturdy collection of tunes.
Devotees hoping for a continuation of the high watermark set by 2008's "Flavors of Entanglement" will be disappointed. While "Havoc..." may not be as impressive or irrepressible as that collection, however, Morissette must be given credit for not repeating herself. The four years, after all, have brought her into the thick of marriage and motherhood, and that is reflected in a freer, decidedly less anxious set of tunes.
Part and parcel of this new perspective are the likes of "Til' You" and "Empathy." Deceptively unengaging and soft at the core, they soon reveal their lyrical and melodic treasures upon repeated play, underscoring the irreplaceable value of Morissette's highly individual style.
Tunes such as "Lens" and "Win and Win" follow suit. Kind, altruistic and gentle are not synonymous with banal in Morissette's vocabulary. She manages to touch on themes of interconnectedness and universality without inducing groans or recycling preceding ideas. One of her key assets is an ability to express her ideas in an unorthodox, through-the-backdoor fashion, rewarding listeners with poetic ears.
"Receive" is particularly moving with its full-bodied chorus, as is the sprightly, acutely self-aware "Spiral" - they are but a few idiosyncrasies away from being radio friendly.
She still rocks hard when she wants to. "Woman Down" blisters and pierces in its righteous anti-misogyny, proving Morissette can still make her enemies cower if the spirit so moves her. Alternatively, the fierce love and nurturance that seep from the pores of lead single "Guardian" is absolutely hair-raising upon close listen.
The major flaw of the record is Joe Chiccarelli's production, which whitewashes a lot of the adventure and unpredictability out of the equation. Morissette's particular proclivities are too often bleached, giving many of the songs an unwelcome slickness and sheen, and her voice is mixed too far below the soundscapes. This serves to deemphasize what makes her unique, rather than putting those qualities front and center where they belong. Compared to Guy Sigsworth's awesome work on her last record or Morissette's own on 2002's "Under Rug Swept," it is a considerable disappointment, even though Sigsworth is still credited here on a handful of tracks.
Such detractions notwithstanding, Morissette's highly individual voice and perspective still shine through to grab the listener and take hold. She proves that, in spite of how many changes she may go through, she is still a compelling, important artist with a unique place on the shelf.
Those who complain that a wife and mother in her late 30s no longer moves and sings like her former 20-year-old self are sadly missing the point. "Havoc and Bright Lights" is the sound of a particularly valuable artist in the throes of her own evolution, and listeners are lucky to still have her recording and performing.
Different retailers and sections of the globe offer different bonus track, so do have a look on Wikipedia before choosing your edition.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on September 9, 2012
Format: Audio CDVerified Purchase
On 'Havoc and Bright Lights,' Alanis Morissette has, once again, revealed why she is in a genre of her own. She is, undeniably, a lyrical genius and has displayed this throughout her musical career. She continues this on her latest album of work. Her unique voice coupled with her ingenious words proves her music is still as fresh and unique as it was 17 years ago when she surged onto the musical scene. `Havoc and Bright Lights' isn't `Jagged Little Pill Part 2' and I don't expect or need for it to be. Instead, this album shows a very current Alanis and her state-of-mind in life ...modern, renewed, and it articulates that she is still questioning things that matter and is continuing her quest for answers, yet, at the same time, offering some solutions. Her music has always been relatable, a favorite of mine, and her song-writing skills have led me to believe that she expresses and contains a spark unlike any other artist. This album continues my theory.
Alanis offers 12 songs on the standard edition of `Havoc and Bright Lights' and 8 additional songs that have been released randomly in her Havoc era. They all uphold a level of beauty and insight that I anticipate from this artistic master. The album itself flows well as a whole but the bonus tracks do offer an added variety in her sound and experiment more with her range of capabilities. Her husband, Souleye, also appears in 2 of the bonus songs and unexpectedly he adds a flavor to those 2 tracks that forces them to stand-out...in a good way.
1.Guardian-the first single off this album. It's a safe yet pronounced song that captures a mood the album contains. 4/5
2.Woman Down-the rumored-second-single offers a song addressing a collective problem. It's fast, attractive, and essential. 4.5/5
3.`Til You-this song is the only one out of 20 that I skip, although many fans love it. It's slow and sweet but hasn't grown on me just yet. 2/5
4.Celebrity-another song that addresses a social problem.... obsessing over superstar status. It's darker and deep and 100% brilliant. 4.5/5
5.Empathy-one of my favorite tracks on the album. Alanis is grateful and happy and the lyrics combined with the music force me to share in her feeling. 5/5
6.Lens-one of my favorites, as well. She combines great sound with great lyrics. 5/5
7.Spiral-a song that you might think would be darker but ends up acknowledging those darker places in a lighter tone. 3.5/5
8.Havoc-a very impressive ballad that is both contemplative and tangible for listeners. Quite possibly my favorite of her ballads.
9.Numb-Alanis is true to form in this...it's profound and more intense. 4/5
10.Win/Win-this song is hit or miss with her fans. I, personally, think it's great due to the lyrics. The words fit the mood but its one song that I agree is filler. 3/5
11.Receive-another favorite from this record. It addresses remembering yourself in the chaos of life and that's always a good thing. Plus it sounds great. 5/5
12.Edge Of Evolution-Brilliant. It's depth-filled, has a beautiful chorus, and is another favorite. 5/5
13.Tantra-This song is offered here on Amazon. I love it. Some don't. I think it's distinctive, slow-yet- sexy, and praiseworthy of this album. 4/5
14.Big Sur-the first Target bonus track. It captures her love of Big Sur, California in a whimsical ode. She apprehends her mood and feelings convincingly. It makes me want to visit Big Sur ASAP.4/5
15.Guru-the second Target bonus track. Alanis discusses her deep appreciation for her teacher of philosophy and wisdom in this one-of-a-kind tribute. It's peaceful, upbeat, and features her husband, SoulEye. His lyrics and sound are a surprisingly remarkable addition to the song. 3.5/5
16.Permission-the third Target bonus track. Beautiful. Appealing. This song should have definitely been included on the album or even presented as a possible single. 5/5
17.No-a Japan bonus track and its one of my favorite of the bonus songs. It's haunting and almost on the same level of her 1998 hit `Uninvited.' It should have been included on the album.5/5
18.Magical Child-This song was originally included on a compilation album, Every Mother Counts 2012, but included as a bonus track for Havoc as well. It's an excellent contribution.4/5
19.Will You Be My Girlfriend?-This song is sweet yet awkward. It is a song directed to approaching/becoming friends with another woman and the little insecurities she has on how to make that bond work.3/5
20.Jekyll and Hyde-an iTunes exclusive that features SoulEye again. It's a great track but is far too short. SoulEye begins his contribution very early in the song. Adding another verse would have enhanced this one for me. 3.5/5
`Havoc and Bright Lights' is an honest and endearing album that is certainly one of my favorites offered by Alanis. I hope more people listen to this gem and feel the same way.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on October 17, 2012
Format: Audio CD
(Before we begin on the review proper, please note since the release of the 2008 "Flavors of Entanglement", Alanis Morissette has released ten non LP songs in addition to this album: "I Remain" from the "Prince of Persia" soundtrack, "Professional Torturer" from "Radio Free Abermuth", and "Magical Child" from "Every Mother Counts 2012". There are seven additional B-Sides issued as bonus tracks on various editions of the album: "Will You Be My Girlfriend?", "Big Sur", "Permission," "No", "Tantra", and "Guru" and "Jekyll and Hyde" which both feature Souleye, her husband. This material is easily just as strong as the tracks that did make the album, especially "Professional Torturer" and "Big Sur". "Magical Child" also appears as a bonus track. "Big Sur" shows a literary awareness and nods to Jack Keuroac and is by far one of my favorite Alanis songs she has recorded. The title of this review comes from "Guru".).
Alanis has been many things in her career - an alt rocker, actress, feminist, spiritualist, and a seeker. On each of her albums you get the sense that Alanis is desperately seeking higher consciousness above all else - connection, truth, understanding, and joy. The title of this album, "Havoc and Bright Lights", is easily the most revealing of all her album titles, with this explanation by Alanis: "`Havoc' refers to the song with that title and the challenges and consequences of taking responsibility and recovering from different addictions," she explains. "`Bright Lights' speaks to both the spirituality that pervades all the songs, with us all being `light' at our core, and the hot heat (or bright lights) of being famous and in the public eye, as in the song `Celebrity.'
The cover art of "Havoc and Bright Lights" really captures the essence of Alanis' new album. Alanis stands gazing upward at a bright blue sky, smiling, content with her life at long last. And while we do find an overall contentment here not present on any of her other records, Alanis explores that happiness in all its peaks and valleys. The key track on "Havoc and Bright Lights", and indeed whole career, is the last song on the regular edition of the album, "The Edge of Evolution". As noted in the promo material for the album, "The Edge of Evolution" distills her entire career (up to this point), into one song, with her singing "we're ready to push envelopes into full-blown consciousness" in the final verse.
Alanis elaborates on what she means with this song. "The evolution of our consciousness can be such a lofty, overly heady, and, frankly, confusing conversation for people. So the song is an invitation to clarify and support what growth, healing, connection and self-expression really means for each person. ultimately, supporting people's next courageous step is all I really care about. I think that's what my contribution is -- to engage musically, lyrically and publicly in the conversation about my and our humanity....this movement toward wholeness, rather than perfection or goodness, and deepening intimacy, connection and authenticity is such a big part of what I'm here to contribute." This statement by Alanis is key to understanding both her career and the albums.
Starting with "Jagged Little Pill", each album Alanis has released sounds like an aural snapshot of what is going on with her life. With "Jagged Little Pill", Alanis is angry at the "relationship" of "You Oughta Know" and several other tracks, questioning religion and gender issues (both driving forces in her career), and still hopeful for love ("Head Over Heels"). Alanis goes to India and tries figuring out spirituality and God on "Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie". She decides what she wants from her romantic life on "Under Rug Swept" and also works out her trauma from the "relationship". Then she discovers contentment that love brings on "So Called Choas" with Ryan Renolds that ultimately won't last. Alanis then walks the listener through the collapse of [her] that particular relationship with the 2008 effort "Flavors of Entanglement".
Now, I don't want to give the impression that each single record is simply an ongoing chapter in the autobiography through song of Alanis Morissette. I painted the contents of her discography in pretty broad strokes, but make no mistake, each album has odd detours and individual tracks that don't fit in to the overall reading I just gave. Nonetheless, there is no doubt in my mind Alanis overall gets her songwriting material from what is going on in her life.
Four years separate "Flavors" from "Havoc", the same amount separating "Flavors" from "So Called Chaos", and a lot has happened in Alanis's life. She's gotten married and had a baby. Knowing Alanis, of course these life events will show up in "Havoc and Bright Lights", and without fail, these new events in Alanis's history DO show up, and show up BIG.
So lets get to the songs themselves. Alanis describes her songwriting method. "A song starts with the seed, or the essence of an idea. I far prefer writing about the personal and the micro in a concise way. That's what interests me. Rather than paint overly broad strokes, I'd rather write about the one-on-one of personal interactions. And then allow it to be a commentary on the more macro effects we see in the world, from there."
This perfectly describes the songwriting present on "Havoc and Bright Lights". We have several of Alanis's favorite themes in highly personal settings that you can extrapolate out into the macro. "Woman Down" (one of the hardest hitting and probably the most favorably reviewed song here) features a misognist, "Spiral" shows the consequences of negative thinking and how you must value yourself, "Havoc" with the pain of addictions. "Lens" is one of her most evoactive songs, and is a meditation on how people from different religious backgrounds can come together to find common ground.
"Till You" is a mellow love song to her husband, Mario Treadway (the rapper SoulEye). She wrote "Empathy" as an appreciation for her husband and friends being empathetic to her. Alanis holds empathy as incredibly important and says: "I really do think that empathy is the cornerstone of what will not only raise the consciousness of the planet, but will also provide profound healing. And perhaps these are one and the same."
Another key song is "Celebrity", the one song that harkens back to the anger on "Jagged Little Pill". Alanis dismantles the desire to be famous, writing off those who so desire to be famous as rather off the mark. Although on "Jagged Little Pill" she had such naked, stark anger, with "Celebrity" Alanis comes across much more compassionately, speaking from the wisdom of experience. For Alanis's own means, she desired fame for connection. In her own words:
"In my teen years, I thought fame would afford me more connection but the opposite wound up being true. Instead I became a screen upon which people could project their ideas, and it actually pushed them further away from me, which was devastating. The reason this new album represents such a celebration for me is that I can still exist in the context of popular culture, but I'm also experiencing connection because the climate now allows for it. Whether it's through social media, Tweeting, or blogging, it's enabled me to achieve the intimacy with my fans and peers that I've always wanted."
While she often came across as wrapped up in the anger of her previous records, with "Celebrity" that anger comes from an empathetic, concerned Alanis, warning others not to sell yourself out and become a "sexy tattoed monkey" solely for fame.
From a production and musical standpoint, the album sounds largely in line with "Flavors of Entanglement" and "So Called Chaos". Although a previous reviewer did not like the production due to the distinct, radically differing styles of the two producers, Alanis praised the production style. "Guy [Sigsworth, who produced "Flavors"] contributes this otherworldly, technologically savant-esque, limitless magic and then we have Joe [Chiccarelli, producer for The Strokes and The White Stripes] who honors the narrative and creates this incredibly modern, kick-you-in-the-teeth rock sound. The blend of both of these producers was the perfect integration for me. I wanted the album to have the fantastical aspects of what technology can build, combined with a human earthiness, and I think that's what we achieved."
Naturally, parenthood and her marriage show up in the aforementioned "Till You" and the lead single from the album, "Guardian". "Guardian" not only has Alanis reaching out for a way to protect her child but also how she must "guard" herself for her new family. In her own words: "It's about the care I have to offer myself in a way I never have in the past in order to sustain wifehood and motherhood"
Her concern for her child and family not only show up on the lead single, but on the way she actually recorded the album. She turned her home into a studio in order to balance caring for Ever, her son, and recording "Havoc and Bright Lights". "Once my son was born, I immediately felt this surge of `I have to write this record. Ofcourse the timing couldn't have been worse. Post-partum is not the time to be doing anything other than post-partum-ing. Because I'm an attachment parent, I wanted to be near him 24/7. It was this unusual but perfect blend of mom-hood and artist. Itwas a challenge to do both at the same time, but I had no other option. I was called to show up 100 percent for both, so this was the only way to do it. i developed a deep affinity and gratitude for coffee and falling asleep sitting up, for the first time in my life"
Overall, if Alanis stopped recording today, "Havoc and Bright Lights" would be a perfect ending to her overall body of work, though I personally think she most likely has a lot more music left in her to record. She has a line in her song where she talks about being amazed by agape (divine) love, and she [has been coloured captured] says "colour me captured". For those have been following Alanis, they be captured by this record too!
(All quotes in the review are from Alanis's press release for this album)