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Best Alanis Morissette Albums: All 11 Records Ranked, Reviewed
jeremy sutton-hibbert / Alamy Stock Photo
List & Guides

Best Alanis Morissette Albums: All 11 Records Ranked, Reviewed

Raw and uncompromising, the best Alanis Morissette albums have been as much a catharsis for their creator as they are for her legion of fans.

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“It’s a strange combination,” Alanis Morissette has said of herself. “I feel like I was born with my foot on the gas pedal and my other foot on the brake. I’m the girl who wants to jump off the cliff but I run down and make sure the water’s deep enough.” The best Alanis Morissette albums try to make sense of this contradiction. She’s brave, but she’s chickenshit – as she puts it herself on the song Hand In My Pocket.

Although she’s rightly lauded as perfecting purification rituals of revenge in her songs (“I think anger is pretty amazing,” she said in 2020), Morissette is a far deeper and broader artist, channelling more than simply one emotion. Through her catalogue she has also attempted to make sense of exploitation, recovery, family, discrimination and the power of calm. The best Alanis Morissette albums always contain a yang as well as a yin.

“Songwriting is an exercise in letting the unconscious out,” she has said. “I live my whole life, then I take ten minutes to write the story of it.”

Listen to the best of Alanis Morissette here, and check out the best Alanis Morissette albums, below.

11: ‘So-Called Chaos’ (2004)

Nearly ten years after Jagged Little Pill, Alanis Morissette’s cultural influence had been huge. Young artists such as Avril Lavigne were taking the Morissette blueprint, combining it with text-speak and forging a bold new rock sound. It’s for these reasons that So-Called Chaos sounds more dated today than many of the best Alanis Morissette albums. The essential Alanis spirit is still strong, but the album came at a time when Morissette’s musical children were taking her energy, and running fast with it.

Morissette didn’t deny the less complex nature of So-Called Chaos compared to her previous work. “I feel like there’s a simplification that has happened,” she said of the record. “Not only in my music but in my life over the past couple of years.” Nevertheless, So-Called Chaos still offers some real pearls: the title track is built on a harder musical bed than usual, with shades of industrial clatter; Eight Easy Steps, too, is an anthemic Morissette treat. Everything, the album’s lead single, and a litany of Morissette’s own contradictions, was in itself a healing act for the artist. “In loving all of those different parts [of myself],” she said, “I just became more peaceful because I’m not struggling against these parts anymore.”

Must hear: Eight Easy Steps

10: ‘Alanis’ (1991)

Alanis Morissette has never denied her pre-Jagged Little Pill musical career. “I’m not scared people might hear these records,” she said in 2007. “There’s nothing I regret. Maybe people will understand that my lyrics are from different experiences if they hear those records.”

Alanis, her debut album, is squarely within the pop of the early 90s. It channels Martika, Madonna and Paula Abdul, with light hip-hop influences dotted across its ten tracks. Denigrating the album for what it was never meant to be is a pointless exercise. Morissette co-wrote every song on this record (glimpses into her future are especially clear on Plastic, with its cynical references to plastic girls and plastic beds), and she was only 17 at the time of its release.

Must hear: Too Hot

9: ‘Now Is The Time’ (1992)

Alanis Morissette’s second and final pop album, Now Is The Time, was released only in Canada. This record features confident vocals from the teenage Morissette, and a varied musical palate, particularly on the opening stomper, Real World. It’s also bracing to understand that while Morissette was writing and performing these lightweight lyrics she was having the heaviest of experiences regarding eating disorders, toxic relationships and industry disillusionment. All of these themes would feed into subsequent entries among the best Alanis Morissette albums.

“[Without] the experiences I had in Canada I certainly would not be who I am today, and writing in the way that I’m writing today,” Morissette said in 2002. “It was a natural progression, and an evolution.”

Must hear: Real World

8: ‘Havoc And Bright Lights’ (2012)

Havoc And Bright Lights, Morissette’s first post-Maverick album, marked a shift in her writing style. Noticeably peaceful and congenial in its sound, it reflects Morissette’s happiness at the time (she has said she spent the four years since the release of her previous album, Flavors Of Entanglement, “cultivating a personal life”), but that doesn’t mean all the album’s edges are blunted. Clear-eyed on misogyny, Woman Down is a portrait of how men become indoctrinated into sexism, while Celebrity is a harsh narrative of how the siren calls of fame starve and carve up the women who fall into it.

“My greatest achievement is being able to write records that are real snapshots of what’s going on in my life,” Morissette said at the time, nodding to the fact that people did not expect a calm record from someone noted for her lyrical ferocity. “I won’t repeat myself for the sake of commerce, or to please other people.”

Must hear: Woman Down

7: ‘Feast On Scraps’ (2002)

Packaged with a live DVD, Feast On Scraps collects numerous B-sides and unreleased tracks from Morissette’s 2002 album, Under Rug Swept, yet the album blisters with its own unique energy. While tracks such as Fear Of Bliss and Purgatorying wouldn’t sit right on Under Rug Swept, when they are collected together like this they shine like individual charms on a bracelet. With scraps such as these, it’s no wonder Under Rug Swept was such a cohesive album.

“I don’t believe in hope anymore,” Morissette said in 2002, reflecting on her lyrical development over the years, and thinking about her approach on the songs written around this time. “I believe in belief. I believe in knowing, and that’s in a positive sense. It almost goes beyond hoping.”

Must hear: Purgatorying

6: ‘Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie’ (1998)

It was a tall order to follow Jagged Little Pill. Much anticipated, Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie was tagged as Morissette’s “spiritual” album; taking a step back from the visceral emotion of its predecessor, this record felt just a little less touch-sensitive. A new layer of skin had grown over Morissette’s raw wounds.

“The challenge for me was to see if I could write a record when my whole environment and lifestyle and situation had completely changed,” Morissette said, “and still be able to write it in a not-self-conscious way. For the first couple of weeks I was writing, I did feel pressure, and I just stopped.” She found her way back to the album via the song That I Would Be Good and, with her collaborator Glen Ballard, wrote the rest of the record in two weeks.

Morissette did not try to replicate the sound of Jagged Little Pill. Instead, drawing from travels in Cuba and India, she reached within herself to explore ideas of forgiveness, self-doubt and closure on what’s truly one of the best Alanis Morissette albums of the 90s. “Supposed was like my way of saying, ‘Fuck you, leave me alone, I just need to insulate myself,’” she said, “[and] not adhere to any structure or expectation that I felt coming at me at 100 miles per hour.”

Must hear: Thank U

5: ‘Such Pretty Forks In The Road’ (2020)

There’s a real dignity to Such Pretty Forks In The Road. As an album on which ballads dominate, the serene mood is a slow-burner, yet an insidious one. It is hard to pin down. “The content of the songs, maybe they’re not the most joyous topics, but the process of writing was incredibly joyful for me,” Morissette said of this album. “The two relationships for me that I think are underwritten about are the parent-child relationship and also friendships. We write about our love addiction, we write about our depression, but not a lot of us write about the impossibility of attempting to put to words the love you feel for your kids.”

Morissette’s strength has always been her authenticity. Throughout the best Alanis Morissette albums, her lyrics are experiences – and phrasings – that haven’t been focus-grouped or workshopped. They come from a genuine heart and a curious brain. With the songs on Such Pretty Forks In The Road, Morissette focused less on immediate catharsis and instead explored the way that her life’s difficult elements – trauma, addiction, mental-health struggles – could not be conquered forever. Instead, they required daily, sometimes hourly, renegotiations. This means Such Pretty Forks In The Road is not instant, but is ultimately fulfilling.

Must hear: Reasons I Drink

4: ‘the storm before the calm’ (2022)

The kernel of healing that has always run through the best Alanis Morissette albums – even when she is at rock bottom – finally found full expression in perhaps her most surprising release, the storm before the calm. Although it has been tagged as a “meditation” album, the percussive ripples and electronic spatter elevate it greatly from background murmur. In an Instagram post, Morissette wrote that the album “became its own multi-layered life raft during a time where I felt like I might disappear and float away”.

Hearing Morissette croon abstractly rather than showcase her wordcraft is unusual and initially unsettling. Yet what she does on the storm before the calm is to find meaning in the absence of direct expression; the spaces between and the words unsaid. The result is an unexpected and tranquil pleasure.

Must hear: heart – power of a soft heart

3: ‘Flavors Of Entanglement’ (2008)

Out of all the best Alanis Morissette albums, Flavors Of Entanglement is the most diverse in its sound, with the addition of hip-hop and electronic elements to alternative rock. Rather than an awkward patchwork, this “combination of everything” (as Morissette phrased it) is clever and continuous. On this album she was produced by Guy Sigsworth, whose work with Madonna (Music, American Life) and Björk (Homogenic) achieved similar harmonious sonic fusion.

When Morissette was writing these songs she was in the middle of separating from her long-term partner, Ryan Reynolds, and the lyrics reflect this. “I wanted my own personal story to unfold as I was writing it,” she said at the time. “I’m able to write about a breakup from a different place. Same brokenness. Same rock-bottom. But a little more informed, now I’m older. Thank God for growing up.”

Must hear: Giggling Again For No Reason

2: ‘Under Rug Swept’ (2002)

“I think my own growth is a means to the end of being of service to other people,” Morissette said of her fifth album, Under Rug Swept. The album’s centrepiece, Hands Clean, makes this abundantly clear: a song implying emotional abuse and sexual exploitation, it features one of Morissette’s strongest lyrical and vocal performances. Like all of Under Rug Swept, she wrote it alone.

She also self-produced the record, and played most of its instruments, too. It’s a watershed in Morissette’s development as a complete and self-directed artist, its songs powerful and its sound incendiary. She felt a new confidence within herself, re-negotiating her record deal with Maverick and changing up her bandmates.

Morissette has said that there was a new relationship with her gender and body image that permeated Under Rug Swept. “In the past couple years, I’ve started to tap into embracing my womanhood but without feeling like I have to adhere to some stereotype of how a woman should look,” she said in 2002. “Your body is what it is. All shapes and sizes are sexy to me, anyway. It’s fun to see skin, but what about the rest of you? Why aren’t those pieces being shared?”

Must hear: Hands Clean

1: ‘Jagged Little Pill’ (1995)

“When someone says that I’m angry it’s actually a compliment,” Alanis Morissette said in 2012. “I have not always been direct with my anger in my relationships, which is part of why I’d write about it in my songs because I had such fear around expressing anger as a woman.” Jagged Little Pill exposed, expressed and expelled the anger that Morissette held in her life. Containing many of the best Alanis Morissette songs, its force propelled her to stardom and its impact is still seismic.

Lyrically, although fury is the album’s most obvious quality, Morissette is incredibly complex in her palette. Hand In My Pocket, for example, captures the braggadocio and insecurity of youth; the hidden track Your House is apocalyptically sad; and Mary Jane explores the drive towards – and difficulties of – female solidarity.

Jagged Little Pill was such a phenomenon because it not only narrated Morissette’s feelings, it seemed to inject them directly into the listener’s bloodstream. “It was a massive permission-giving for someone to let their fallibility, vulnerability and humanity be what it is,” she reflected in 2019. “When I listen to it I think, Wow, it’s such an empathic, validating record because no matter what flavour of emotionality I was cycling through in any given song or verse or chorus it was a musical validation of those feelings.”

Jagged Little Pill heralded a new era of unpretty frankness in rock, and Morissette was there at its vanguard. “There was a cultural wave swelling,” she wrote in 2015 of this time. “A readiness, perhaps, for people to hear about the underbelly, the true experience of being a young, sensitive, and brave person in a patriarchal world.” Topping this list of best Alanis Morissette albums, Jagged Little Pill is undoubtably the one that its creator will always be remembered for.

Must hear: You Oughta Know

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