I was thinking today about how long it had been since I’d gotten any new music. I listen to music a lot, so there is nothing on my iPod (which has almost all of my music collection) that I have not listened to quite quite often.

So I was thinking about this, and half planning on browsing iTunes when I got home, except that doesn’t really work well for me. I seem to need to know in advance what I want, so I do better to get turned onto something that I’ve stumbled on through a blog or through a friend, than to just randomly browse or search.

And then I started thinking about ani. She has a new album coming out. Did I pre-order it? If not, I decided I would do so as soon as I got home. Or, at least, after I’d determined whether I’d already pre-ordered it.

I checked my mailbox on the way in.

Any guesses as to what was waiting for me?

Red Letter Year, naturally.

“‘I’ve got myself a new mantra,” Ani shares on Red Letter Year. “It says ‘Don’t forget to have a good time.'” This attitude clearly influenced the dozen tunes on the album, which celebrate existence, profess love and tackle thorny political issues with an infectious sense of glee. It’s one of Ani’s most joyous records to date!

Featuring her live band and lots of special guests, Red Letter Year was sculpted over the course of two years, a period in which Ani continued to hone her songwriting, performing and recording skills, all the while balancing her new role as a mom. The end result is an album of focused, layered, panoramic music.

Oh, yeah, and it GLOWS IN THE DARK!

Well, that’s what they say about it! I haven’t tested out the glow-in-the-dark bit. I’ve listened to it a few times this afternoon. It isn’t one of the albums that grabs me from the start and doesn’t let go. I found it almost unnervingly simple and light-jazzy at first, actually. But I think it is more layered than that, and like most of her later albums will seep into me over time. Already on the third listen, I realized that there is more complexity than I’d first noticed. At least in some of the songs. She does have a few songs that are extremely happy. A definite sign of a new phase in her life – she talked about that in her concerts last year, so it is no surprise!

One thing that struck me right from the start is how open and vulnerable some of her songs are. Maybe that is a quirk of mine, that when people bare their soul and show the gentle happy emotions, it feels more vulnerable to me than when they share the anger and hurt. Maybe I’m just paying more attention right now, but I am awed by the courage it must take to share some of these things with people.

She also sings about some of her own insecurities. Meanwhile she’s probably the hero to millions of young women! Just goes to show how self-critical we all are.

And of course there is The Atom, finally on a CD.

I’m no good at music reviews, but I will say this: I think this CD is absolutely worth buying for long-term ani fans. It is quite different than most of her other CD’s, and it might not appeal to those who really only liked, say, Dilate and Little Plastic Castles. As usual, ani is not interested in being pigeon-holed into one kind of music. She’s always experimenting, and I think this cd is no exception to that.

I’m so happy the music fairy visited me today. It was perfect.