Ani DiFranco (photo by GMD Three, PR)
Ani DiFranco is a fiercely independent, passionate, and driven individual: a feminist, activist, and businesswoman with few peers. As if this weren't enough, she is also an extremely talented artist; excelling as a lyricist, composer and guitarist.
She’s also consistent. Over a career spanning 27 years and 20 studio albums, she's been an artistic force with a singularly fearless voice.
Her new and nineteenth studio album, Binary, comes about two and a half years after Allergic To Water. This album finds DiFranco emerging from new motherhood for the second time and shifting attention back to global situations. The present political climate provides DiFranco plenty of inspiration, but she bypasses any direct attacks.
Non-violence is the topic of “Pacifist’s Lament.” Here, DiFranco equates telling children to stop fighting — and apologize — with warring adults. “If I had a school,” DiFranco sings, “I’d teach techniques of non-violence as part of the core.” Choice is the subject of “Play God,” a powerhouse of a track bolstered with lyrics like, “I feel I’ve earned my right to choose/You don’t get to play God, man/I do.” DiFranco’s words get more pointed as the song expands and she declares: "A woman needs control over her own body."
Religion comes into play on “Alrighty" as DiFranco addresses the generation that will next inherit the world. In "Deferred Gratification" she sings, “I vote in every election/hope someday these kids are gonna help us win.”
Binary is a musical potpourri. Odd time signatures, complex chord progressions, and unorthodox rhyming schemes create a heady blend of folk and alternative rock. The title track adds dashes of funk while “Zizzing” is a complex, meditative track, augmented perfectly by Bon Iver's Justin Vernon.
“Telepathic" gets jazzy while "Even More" softens to a breezy folk. "Spider" strikes with a punkish vibe.
DiFranco called upon some very talented friends to assist on Binary. Joining DiFranco is drummer Terence Higgins, bassist and keyboardist Todd Sickafoose, violinist Jenny Scheinman, keyboardist/bassist Ivan Neville and saxophonists Maceo Parker ("Binary") and Skerik ("Play God" and other tracks). Also in the mix is Vernon ("Zizzing") and Gail Ann Dorsey ("Terrifying Sight"). DiFranco wrote all eleven tracks and produced the album in her new hometown of New Orleans.
DiFranco has spent her entire career marching to the beat of her own drum, always striving for individuality and independence. Through her songs, she demands that listeners think for themselves, take action when necessary, and not hide their heads in the sand. Binary powerfully continues DiFranco’s mission and delivers her message.
More: An inside look at Ani's new album airs Monday, June 26 at 8 p.m. EDT on WFUV, as Rita Houston hosts "Ani DiFranco: Binary."