Review Summary: Alanis Morissette in 2020
Fittingly for an album released after an eight-year break, Such Pretty Forks in the Road
frets over purpose. Alanis Morissette is much more subdued in this quest than on her 90s heavyweights Jagged Little Pill
and Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie
. It focuses on vibrant rock ballads, weaving orchestral bridges with a flamboyant trick or two from recent Broadway experiences. Sometimes this combination falls flat, especially in the second act of the record, but it’s consistently engaging overall. Despite its sonic scope, it plays more like a catch-up with an old friend than a rambunctious statement against the world.
Forever a lyrical giant, Alanis Morissette’s words here consistently reference missions or goals, perhaps the most explicitly on “Losing the Plot.” Here, she depicts herself giving up her stardom—“I am grieving the end of superwomaning / I have laid down my cape.” She isn’t shy about the reason for this: by the second track “Ablaze,” she makes her point clear in a cry to her children, “My mission is to keep the light in your eyes ablaze.” Perhaps there could’ve been a more convincing narrative to this record if it were framed as something less obvious—a growing lack of interest in stardom giving way to lost purpose, ending in that joyous realization. But it’s likely this simply wasn’t her experience, and rearranging her life to fit a strict narrative would mar the authenticity the album thrives on.
If the music were any more oblique, it would harm that same authenticity. As stunning as Alanis's more experimental work on Junkie
was, it was formed in the shadows of uncertainty. Her early albums were often about a lack of purpose. This album is quite the opposite of those—sonically straightforward as she positions herself as someone aware of who she is and what she’s trying to say.
The most captivating aspect of the record is that complete absence of regret. Alanis is not trying to make excuses for her new drive. She isn’t apologizing for a lack of output. She isn’t making a vain attempt to claw back to her height of pop relevancy. This is Alanis Morissette in 2020. She’s less angry, and perhaps a bit more hopeful. While things may be hard at times, her life has new focus in family. And she sounds just as stunning.