Ani DiFranco

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Ani DiFranco - Dilate ©1995 Righteous Babe Records
1. Untouchable Face
2. Outta Me Onto You
3. Superhero
4. Dilate
5. Amazing Grace
6. Napoleon
7. Shameless
8. Done Wrong
9. Going Down
10. Adam And Eve
11. Joyful Girl

Of the nerdy folk musicians I listen to (Beth Orton a geek? No way!) Ani DiFranco has, I figure, the most upward mobility in terms of youth palatability. Hence, her inclusion in these mostly rock annals. She's written a novel's worth of incisive, sincere lyrics, routinely giving sense to the senseless and providing a voice for the voiceless. "Shameless", "Adam and Eve" and "Joyful Girl", the latter of which is almost life-affirming in its base-level articulation, are some of the best she's written in this respect. Her percussive acoustic style is rendered essentially inimitable by the sheer amount of improvisation, but reaches a level of technicality (listen to the intro of "Superhero" if you don't believe me) that no Neil Young ever could (so he's boring and overrated, okay?). Although Dilate would seem to attest she hasn't progressed much over the course of eight (8) albums, she doesn't really need to; when one buys an Ani DiFranco album, one knows what one is getting. Most memorable of the lot would be commercial music tirade "Napoleon" and the somber "Done Wrong". No production, really, just an artist applying her trade, understated but totally realized. So go ahead, if you want, and call her trendy "chick-rock", and go back to your safe little oh-so-accurately-assessed-demographically-administered marketing cubicle. Just know what you're missing, you little brat.

Review by Lee Steadham

Review date: 03/1999

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Little Plastic Castles

Ani DiFranco - Little Plastic Castles ©1997 Righteous Babe Records
1. Little Plastic Castle
2. Fuel (Spoken Word)
3. Gravel
4. As Is
5. Two Little Girls
6. Deep Dish
7. Loom
8. Pixie
9. Swan Dive
10. Glass House
11. Independence Day
12. Pulse

As foreign as this may seem to the American mainstream musical landscape, Ani DiFranco, as a female artist, has not taken to darting around on MTV in her underpants to sell records. Unlike her countless ditzy contemporaries - who, for diplomacy's sake will remain positively unnamed (Paula Cole and Fiona Apple)--there's a legitimate musical substrate to underscore the hype. So, thriving in the shadows of her more prolific, less talented contemporaries comes Little Plastic Castles which has the same personal/political lyrical balance, but only few fleeting moments of the earthy percussive acoustic folk that marked earlier recordings. Sure, "Swan Dive" and "Gravel" typify DiFranco in her coffee-house folk element, but the majority of Castle seems dedicated to the exploration of previously uncharted avenues, perhaps better left untouched. I mean, aside from the favorable Portishead-ish phrasings of "Pixie", the myriad of flavors and obtuse musical ideas that characterize this recording as a whole co-exist rather than blend. Honestly, is there anyone out there that doesn't think the trumpets are just a little excessive? The ska horns a tad extraneous? Still, light years beyond the sad-sack, guitar-strummin-one-hit-wonders that pollute the airwaves, but confused, questionably wound and wandering uncomfortably close to cheesy pop music.

Review by Lee Steadham

Review date: 12/1998

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