Anyone who's spent much time within my earshot will know that I regard Jolie Holland as a genius. However, on seeing this I felt betrayed. She's having fun. With friends. The low-fi marginalized obscurantist I fell in love with has left me.
However, our instincts are something we must analyze. Why do I feel this way? In part, it's because I've lost my manic pixie dream girl. But there's something else going on.
It's that we expect our heroes to suffer. You don't have to look far in our cultural history to find the origin of this - though in the "song of the millennium" Jolie disavowed the analogy - but, curiously, the image of the crucified Christ was rare in the early centuries of Christianity.
This is especially true of cultural figures; the "tortured genius", the "27 club" and the artist starving in the garret are cliches.
However, we don't expect our doctors or - perish the thought - or bankers or manager to suffer for their craft, so why should we expect artists to do so, and be disappointed when they don't?
One answer is that suffering is necessary to express others' pain. But art isn't necessarily about suffering: think of, say, Austen or Armstrong. And I suspect there's a massive misperception of correlation going on here. Of the billions of people to have led lives of poverty and misery, only a tiny handful have produced great art. And of the tiny minority to have led relative comfortable lives, several have done so; even within jazz music - a genre stuffed with hard lives (some self-inflicted) - Miles Davis and Duke Ellington came from relatively affluent backgrounds.
You might think all this is far removed from my usual preoccupations. I'm not so sure (not that I care if it is). The Easterlin paradox poses the question: what are the benefits of economic growth? If it were the case that more widespread affluence were to deprive us of great art, then growth would indeed be a mixed blessing.
Sure, it might feel like this; one could easily argue that many musical forms in particular are in decline. But contemporaries are rarely good judges of culture - Beethoven and be-bop alike had bad reviews - and it's normal to think that the Golden Age was in the past.
So, perhaps our instincts are wrong. And even if we do live in an age of mediocrity, it might be for reasons other than our greater prosperity than earlier generations.
But what of Jolie's new album? I think the hivemind summarized by metacritic has it roughly right. If you're inviting comparisons with the Velvet Underground rather than Billie Holliday, you're not doing too badly.