Ani Difranco – Little Plastic Castle
Mike’s still branching out and away from his safe, known, hard rawk happy place by reviewing some of the stuff I bought for myself in Toronto last October. It’s healthy for Mike, and he’s lucky I sent him the stuff in the first place. 😉
The thing with Ani is that no matter what she does, there’s always gonna be somebody who says she should have done something differently. She’s not angry enough. She’s not like she used to be. She’s gone off in some (insert criticism here) wrong direction. The music’s not melodic enough. It’s too SOMETHING, either way. Another big one is that she’s had incredible success with her own label, boldly avoiding the majors, so she must be Up To Something. Well you know what, she IS up to something. She’s making great records, on her own terms, and it’s clear she’s having a blast.
I should note, for the sake of you reading this, that I have owned and/or at least heard all of her albums, over the years. I didn’t own them all when they came out, I didn’t hear them in order, and I don’t own them all now (I wish I did). But I am a fan of hers, and am always happy to spin one of her discs.
So for all that, I can say that Little Plastic Castle is fairly typical Ani for this period of her career. It’s slick, it’s accessible, and it’s still edgy enough to make even the old-school hardcore Ani fans nod knowingly. By 1998, Ani had definitely changed, and grown, from the young woman who burst out of the gates as a superlative creative artist. And what a guitar player! So cool. By the time of this, her 8th record, she was established and seasoned and still just as capable of anything. And she was riding high on Living In Clip, a brilliant live record. The future was limitless. Wiki reminded me that the song Glass House was even nominated for a Grammy!
Wrapped in excellent and controlled music, and with lyrical blasts of an intelligence and capability many artists would kill for, this record contains moments of angry, hopeful, silly, thoughtful, adventurous, powerful and beautiful. In other words, it’s Ani. She’s not afraid to explore. She’s not afraid to laugh. She’s not afraid of, well, anything. She is just full-on.
I don’t really have favourite songs from this record, ones that I skip to or play more often. I tend to just let it play. If that sounds like a cop-out to you, from a review or write-up perspective, I can live with that. I don’t have a need to go through this, song for song. It’s all good. I’d recommend it (and the excellent 2-CD collection called Canon), if you’re looking to give her a try and can find a reasonably-priced copy. You’ll love it.
Cool aside: One of the drummers on this record, Andy Stochkansky, enjoyed a solo career that had some success (and should have had more). We got to see him perform in Saskatoon, at Louis’, but at first I couldn’t remember when or with whom. So I emailed James, who was also at this show, and of course he had a note of it. We saw Stochansky as an opening act for Emm Gryner, on 2002-10-23. He put on a really cool show. This would have been around the time of Five Star Motel, and the song of his that you probably know, Wonderful (It’s Superman). I remember our buddy Rowan chatting with him, as he came out into the crowd after his set. But I don’t recall what they talked about. Knowing Rowan, it could have been anything (poor Andy!). James also noted that Emm Gryner looked pretty damn hot in that dress she had on, for her portion of the show. True, true. Anyway. This isn’t much to do with Ani, anymore, so I’ll stop.