I'm about to make you feel old.
Alanis Morissette's landmark Jagged Little Pill was released June 9, 1995. To date, it has sold almost 25 million copies worldwide. This essential record from the 90s remains a blueprint for every confessional singer-songwriter after it.
Alanis was just 21 when she started recording the songs that would become permanent 90s fixtures. Today, June 1st, she turns 40. During her time as musician, we've watched her cathartically release rage against past lovers and corporate suits. We praised her vulnerable side after a trip to India reignited her creative fire.
Ever since then, Alanis blips on the mainstream radar or, in the case of her recent 2012 album Havoc and Bright Lights, slides completely under it. People clinging to Alanis' glory days may have missed a few gems from her catalogue that are essential to understand Alanis' growth as a person and as a musician. In chronological order, here are 10 lesser-known songs worthy of adding into your Alanis rotation. My criteria was to span her career and not choose anything that was officially released a single.
01. Can't Not
Originally from the Jagged Little Pill era, Alanis added this song to her live sets during her mammoth world tour. She eventually recorded it and put it on her sophomore album, Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie. The studio version provides one of the strongest sonic links between her first and second albums due to it's anger, both restrained and unhinged.
02. Pollyanna Flower
The B-side to the "Thank U" single is another dark, post Jagged Little Pill song. Everything from the drum loop to the stream-of-consciousness lyrics are quintessential Alanis. "What am I to do with all this fire?" she demands. The song lays the groundwork for future highlights like "Fear of Bliss."
03. No Pressure Over Cappuccino
Alanis revealed her softer side during the incredible MTV Unplugged special she recorded in 1999. In between stripped versions of her biggest hits, she did a few surprises like this one. Another song that finds its origins in the mid 90s, "No Pressure Over Cappuccino" is an affectionate tune dedicated to her brother. She later recycled the beautiful outro in "Excuses" from 2004's So-Called Chaos.
04. Bent 4 U
The time between Alanis' second and third albums allowed her to test out a huge chunk of new material during her live shows. She probably had two albums worth of songs, but eventually whittled her list to the 11 songs that would comprise 2001's self-produced Under Rug Swept. "Bent 4 U" was unfortunately cut, despite being one of the best songs to emerge from this time. Thankfully it found a home on the Feast on Scraps EP that accompanied a live DVD.
05. Unprodigal Daughter
Another gem from Feast on Scraps, "Unprodigal Daughter" has an uplifting, free-spirited vibe that perfectly encapsulated Alanis' boundless creativity during this time. It's a jet setter's anthem, a road trip opener, and a song about change. Definitely required listening.
Things got glossy on 2004's So-Called Chaos. The apt word for the era was indeed 'chaos,' as Alanis chopped off her signature long locks and aimed for a more polished pop sound. The results were mixed in terms of quality, but "Spineless" emerged as the perfect amount of pop and classic Alanis.
Alanis enlisted electronica producer Guy Sigsworth to help her craft her most emotional and experimental album, 2007's Flavors of Entanglement. Her songwriting became even more transparent, with this "Tapes" being one of her most desolate. Sigsworth's swirling production perfectly complimented the despair of the song.
08. Giggling Again For No Reason
Happy Alanis songs are few and far between, but "Giggling Again For No Reason" ranks as one of her most euphoric and joyous. It sounds like release and relief, as Alanis sings about driving down the 101 on a spontaneous excursion.
Most of the bonus tracks for Flavors of Entanglement were just as good as the ones that made the proper album. In the case of "Orchid," it's actually better than a few. This straightforward song has a beautiful melody with organic, almost nature-like flourishes. It could have served as the centerpiece or summary of the entire record.
The best song to come out of the Havoc and Bright Lights era is this bonus track. Soundwise, it's a sparse, haunting track and a bit of a departure from the wall-of-guitars sound present throughout the rest of the album. Alanis sings with a quiet restraint that menacingly courses alongside the song's urgency.
Alanis also unveiled a video for "Big Sur," a b-side from Havoc and Bright Lights. Watch below. If you like the song, Alanis is offering a signed 7" vinyl single.