Countless artists pour their hearts and souls into making the "next big record". A precious few sell millions, some have maintained a comfortably small fan base, and others never rise from obscurity. But all are susceptible to one possible dubious fate: The shelf of your local thrift store. These poor unwanted remnants of the past grace the shelves of your Goodwills, your Salvation Armys, your local mom & pop shop, waiting to be rediscovered... to be loved once again.

Over my years of thrift store scouring, I gradually began to notice certain discs and records that repeatedly reveal themselves on nearly every visit to any location. It left me wondering: Why are these select albums so often discarded, what led them to this point, and will the recognition and love for them ever be renewed once again? Now I can confidently answer YES. I bestow unto you, an appreciation for all discs left behind: "Thrift Store Albums."

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Alanis Morissette: Jagged Little Pill

An interesting bit of trivia: Did you know that the angry hit, "You Oughta Know" was about Full House Comedian Dave Coulier (Joey Gladstone)? It's true!

Canadian musician Alanis Morissette, who became known as the "queen of alt-rock angst", lived largely in obscurity until she shifted her pop sensibility from dance to rock on her hit third release, and the lyrical floodgates were opened.

Jagged Little Pill was so hip and edgy in that 90's pop sort of way, it was just irresistible. Produced and partially written by Glen Ballard, the songs actually feature the one or two-take vocals from the original demos, with the rest of the elements re-tracked in the studio. The standout third record drew attention to a dichotomy between the slick production and Morissette's ragged and unhinged vocals. The rawness of the lyrics made for a refreshingly unencumbered record, releasing her inner animosity and repaving the landscape of the female singer/songwriter.

"Do I stress you out?" she begins, "All I really want is some patience, a way to calm the angry violence, and all I really want is deliverance." Things would only build in angst the next track in: "and every time I scratch my nails down someone else's back I hope you feel it... well can you feel it?"

And who can forget the sometimes-ironic, sometimes-coincidence lyrics of "Ironic": "It's like rain on your wedding day. It's a free ride when you've already paid. It's the good advice that you just didn't take..."

As with many top-selling albums of the era, Jagged Little Pill was a continual hit factory, with "You Oughta Know", "Hand in my Pocket", "Ironic", "Head Over Feet", and others all getting continuous airplay. Morissette also became the youngest person to receive an "Album of the Year" Grammy until she was more recently dethroned by Taylor Swift.

Following-up such an uncanny success can never be easy, and Morissette was unafraid to take risks with her next release three years later, "Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie". Though commended by critics, fans were torn by her boundary-pushing style, revealing that her approach was perhaps more of an acquired taste than the hits would lead us to believe.

Despite a steady stream of follow-up albums, a more recent release of an entirely acoustic version of Jagged Little Pill confirmed that it's the album that her career is firmly founded upon. Yet, a recent album release and other antics such as a parody cover of The Black Eyed Peas' "My Humps", proves that Morissette is still not ready to hang up the love/hate pop crusade, and I think the commercial music world is a little better for it.

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