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Ani Difranco: Canon

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For Ani Difranco fans, Canon is nothing new, which is exactly why it's a new thing for Ani. The pint-sized indie folk singer has a habit of releasing and re-releasing and doing it on double disc collections, but she also has a habit of recording the same song in different keys and time signatures every time she throws down a track. The ills of capitalism, the failures of democracy and the catastrophes of love are all here on Canon, her latest double-disc release that's mostly a retrospective of already released work. Of the almost 40 songs spread over two discs, five are "brand-spanking-new studio versions" of old Ani favorites. In fact, the retrospective even holds true to the original track list of the original albums in some cases. The title track of 1998's Little Plastic Castle makes an appearance on Canon's disc one, followed by "Fuel" and almost fools you into thinking you've loaded the wrong album until a skip of "Gravel" leads into LPC's track four, "As Is." One of the album's highlights is the Ani version of "32 Flavors," which caused a collective cringe among Ani fans in 1997 when it was released and badly hacked into the mainstream by Alana Davis.

While Canon's scale undoubtedly tips in favor of previously released studio recordings, the five new tracks lend the album more worth than simply having Ani's most popular all in one. The new version of "Both Hands" scraps the original lengthy orchestral intro and soft fluctuation of the version on Living In Clip for one with a poppy, electronic sound circa 1980s, and it's easily the best track of both discs. This new version has more gusto, and coupled with the years that have passed, lyrics like "I'm watching your chest rise and fall like the tides of my life," Ani has an air of authority in this version that the late '90s, pre-mommy, angst-ridden Ani didn't deliver.

Is that to say the rebellious Righteous Babe is going soft? Hardly. She still plays the absolute shit out of the guitar (as anyone who's watched her bust one string per song in concert can attest), and despite Canon's self-same tunes, it's a must-have for the collector and a good-to-have for the fan who wants a handle on Ani.

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