DiFranco’s career is in its teen years right now. Ever since her 1990s debut Ani has gathered a myriad of loyal followers and redefined the definition of coffee shop folk into a culture by itself. She offered great escapism from the Lilith Fair crowd and penned lyrics so witty and timely they are etched on the tombstone of the riot-grrl era. However, ever since “To The Teeth” her music has been waning in lyrical pizzaz and edgy folkness.
DiFranco has meandered into big-band jazziness and forgot about the feisty rock she does best. Her previous double album left the early DiFranco fan hungry for a better treat and considering Ani’s impressive back catalogue, a mediocre album is forgiven. DiFranco, however, returns with the long-awaited “Evolve,” but the wait is not worth it.
The album is packed with midtempo and smokey-bar tunes that meshed into one another for the lack of distinction. The exciting shrewd melodies of DiFranco are long gone and now it is merely a mixture of brown, kind of like when different colors seep into each other in a watercolor painting.
“Promised Land” is a bland and directionless ode, while “Icarus” is basically disappointing.
“In The Way” starts out promising and “Slide” is reminiscent of a less-inspired “Jukebox.”
The title track has some Ani kitsch to it, while “Shrug” is a lazy song with extra distorted vocals.
“Here For Now” is the only complete song, with credible instrumentation, but toward the end it gets redundant. “Serpentine” is a 10-minute-plus trip continuing the Ani tradition of long numbers toward the end of recent albums, yet this song is more of a politically and socially aware record of current events.
The album closes with “Welcome To” and leaves us wondering what happened to the girl with the guitar. Did she find a band and discover saxophones and get her voice drowned by all that?
Coming from an avid DiFranco fan, I find this album second-rate and lower than my expectations. If you loved “Imperfectly” and “Not So Soft,” don’t expect the same feel. If you thought “Reckoning / Revelling” was mediocre, then this is definitely not an album to purchase. I never thought I’d give Ani DiFranco a bad review, but “Evolve” is an evolution toward the bargain bins.
Al-Qatami can be reached at email@example.com.