Speaking of Yum, lots of intelligent new pop music was purchased yesterday — primarily the new Alanis and Lisa Loeb discs. I don’t have any review quality thoughts on either yet, other than to say that both have solidly migrated away from “alternative” to a comfortable position in pop – Loeb with her roots in lush harmony and arrangements, and Alanis all psycho-babbly with shimmery guitars and boisterous bass-lines, both offer up pop gems that could easily deflate the newest Britney hit single.
At a glance, Alanis’s Under Rug Swept scores with the strangely catchy “Hands Clean,” and again with the deadpanned dissection offered up in “Narcissus.” Second single “21 Things I Want in a Lover” and radio-ready “So Unsexy” are both undeniable in their hookiness while coming off slightly awkward… with lines like “do you have a big intellectual capacity” and “i feel so ungood.” The latter song could be Alanis’s new masterpiece; it’s easily as catchy as the equally odd “Hands Clean.” Softer endeavor “Flinch” is a retread of similar material on her previous disc, but will please more casual listeners with it’s simple arrangement. Obviously i’m too busy with the first half of the disc to pay much attention to the sleepy “You Owe Me Nothing in Return,” and the flimsy folk in three/four of “Utopia.”
Lisa Loeb has Ms. Morissette beat hands down all around with Cake and Pie… not only in her mature lyrics & arrangements, but also in graphic design and production. In fact, her disc begins with erstwhile Alanis producer Glen Ballard credited with co-writing the music “The Way It Really Is” (he makes nary an appearance on Under Rug Swept, which Alanis wrote and produced solo). The song is sonically as lush as the more impressive tracks of Firecracker, but has a string laden sense of drama that Lisa doesn’t usually bring to the table. She doesn’t let up on second track “Bring Me Up,” which is as catchy as anything on her debut album with its simple guitar patter and sighing background vocals. Similarly, the melancholy acoustic riffing on “Underdog” gives way to a softly defiant chorus co-written with beau Dweezil Zappa. While the anonymous “Everyday” falls a little flat, lead single “Someone You Should Know” repeats the playfulness featured on her release from the Rugrats movie. “We Could Still Be Together” is resurrected from soundtrack limbo to offer a throbbing 90’s-style rocker to pin down the middle of the album, and “Payback” is an uncharacteristic blues number complete with guitar solos and wurlitzer piano. Nestled between the two, “You Don’t Know Me” sells the disc on its opening riff alone : Lisa’s sweet pop combined with Dweezil’s guitar heroics winds up as a Matthew Sweet brand of perfect pop, and it doesn’t get much more perfect than this ode the the geek girl with a new boyfriend.
Lisa’s album is not as cohesive as her last, and Alanis’s is more rambly — i’m hoping Loeb receives well-deserved attention for her impeccably produced effort, and Morissette learns to embrace the idea of having a little bit of outside input in hers.