The working image of Ani DiFranco is that of a trailblazing indie-folk feminist who doesn’t shy away from picking up a six-string acoustic and speaking truth to power. That’s a reputation she’s earned over the course of 18 albums and long-term support for organizations such as the Southern Center for Human Rights.
But that image, of a leftist folkie playing music tailor-made for a coffee shop, would be woefully inaccurate in the case of “Binary,” from DiFranco’s forthcoming album of the same name. Though DiFranco’s tinkered with funk and jazz sounds before, it’s possible that “Binary” is DiFranco’s funkiest and jazziest tune to date.
“Binary” is a heady, insular tune where all of the organ blasts and liquid basslines are in lockstep with one another. DiFranco doesn’t even really dare to interrupt them until about 45 seconds in, and even then, she sings in a staccato way about not just hearing but perceiving, so her vocal work doesn’t really get in the way.
That central idea of the importance of perception is most assuredly of a piece with DiFranco’s past political work. Last year, Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich asserted that a person’s perception of crime was more important than any number they might hear. And the comment has proved weirdly prescient, as the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election would show. So DiFranco telling people to be in tune with one another and to be perceptive isn’t some New Age claptrap—it’s a politically incisive message for our present time.
Binary is out June 9 on Ani DiFranco’s label Righteous Babe, and is available for preorder here. Listen to “Binary” below, and watch DiFranco’s recent Paste Studio session beneath that.