First album since 2009 for piano songstress sees her re-finding her muse.
It’s intriguing that Tori Amos has re-found her creative muse just weeks after Kate Bush unexpectedly announced an end to her self-imposed live exile. Amos, perhaps more than any other female artist, has carried the same experimental torch as Bush in her pomp. While it didn’t always work, nobody could say Amos’ career has been boring, with influences as diverse as the Gnostic gospels and the art of beekeeping keeping her music... absorbing.
Her first album proper in five years sees a re-energised Amos exploring familiar themes of female sexuality and religion. The music veers from the pastoral British folkie feel of ‘Wedding Way’ to the smoky blues crackle of ‘Trouble’s Lament’. The former’s multi-tracked vocals seep into your headspace, especially if you’re listening on headphones, while the latter sees her voice mutate from sweet whisper to howling banshee in a heartbeat.
Never afraid to take risks, Amos switches metre with alarming impact, sometimes in the same song: ‘Rose Dover’ morphs from a funereal piano dirge to sprightly ‘70s pomp rock without pausing for breath. The song was originally written as a lullaby for her now 13-year-old daughter, Tash, who sings on the bittersweet ‘Promise’.
The organic finger clicks and claps of the delightful ‘America’ contrast with the epic ‘16 Shades Of Blue’, whose electronic whooshes and blips help to frame a truly affecting exploration of the ageing process. ‘Weatherman’ is not a cover of the old Juniper single, but the kind of dreamy piano ballad Amos has made a career from, as are the spine-chilling ‘Wild Way’, the dreamy ‘Oysters’ and the beautiful closer, ‘Invisible Boy’.
The playful oompah of ‘Giant’s Rolling Pin’ is a delightful tale of a magical home baking recipe: “After just one slice you can uncover any lie/ That’s why the FSA and now the FBI want to be the ones to control Beth and Marlene’s pies.”
As you’d expect from the queen of the concept album, however, there are moments of excess. ‘Maids Of Elfen-mere’ could be an excerpt from the Game Of Thrones soundtrack, while the title track’s almost seven minutes of hypnotic sway, religious overtones and sultry backing vocals might be a little overblown for conventional tastes.
Still, Tori has not shied away from challenging both her audience and herself over the course of a career that has encompassed musicals, classical scores and orchestral pop, and so it’s great to hear her mining a rich creative vein once more.
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