Friday, August 18, 2017

Tori Amos : "Native Invader"

My ex-wife would not let me play Tori Amos in the car after I played Kate Bush for her during our first week of dating and ruined Tori  Amos for her. Well when I was in high school I had already heard Kate Bush before hearing Tori, who is obviously influenced by  Kate , but always had a more emotionally fragmented rawness to her. Seeing her straddle her piano bench and play a harpsichord with one hand and a piano with her other made me forget those comparisons. It also made me not want to play the piano for a year. Tori and I have been estranged for 12 years as "the Bee Keeper" is the last album I bought of hers, and that was back when I still bought albums.  Her 15th album opens with a big dark piano sound. Her voice has mellowed over the years into a warm alto, that can still find it's way gracefully up into her head register. She works well over the groove of "Wings" which finds its shadowy introspection contrasting the more organic guitar oriented sway of "Broken Arrow". I am trying to be open minded about this guitar thing. In the past that is where Tori and I have part ways , as I want the piano to be the focus and for some reason I have not wanted her to have a six string in action on her songs, though I am ok with bass. So I am telling myself this time around to think of it more like I think of Elton John.

The strum of "Cloud Riders" is almost like the Decemberists. The way the melody rolls out there is a slight country twinge but it is still very Tori. I am not sure how to even file what she is doing on "Up the Creek" but I like it and the layered vocal harmonies sound great. "Break Away" has some beautiful piano in it, but it is really just a dialed in Tori ballad, she doesn't feel like she really has anything worth while to say here. "Wildwood" finds Tori indulging her more Joni Mitchell side with a filter of post-rock guitar. This is one of her best uses of guitar in a song to date. With 15 songs there was bound to be some filler and " the Chocolate Song" seems to fall under that. It's not bad just not as inspired as the first few songs. There is a darker undertone to this album and it continues to be felt on "Bang". It has a sultry smoke to it's western swing.  Two minutes it turns into something closer to chamber music which makes it very consistent in terms of who Tori is.

"Climb" finds the album dipping into a more intimate piano piece that reminds me a little of Led Zeppelin's acoustic moments. I prefer her stripped down like this. After the number of artists who do this in such a compelling fashion is fairly limited. "Bats" is more in line with her "Under the Pink"  years. The bass and drums plays around the song like a upbeat version of "No Quarter". It has a very 70s rock feel, like the stuff that floated on a cloud of cocaine and pot smoke from California, Don Henley I am looking in your direction. "Benjamin"  doesn't really connect with me despite staying in that 70s space. "Mary's Eyes" finds her going back into Neil Gaiman's world. So once again she connects with themes from her earlier work.  "Upside Down" and "Russia" close the album on that stripped down piano vibe. Over all it's a pretty solid album, if some of the fat was trimmed it could have been in her top 5, but that's not the case , but it did inspire me to want to go back and here what I have been missing over the course of the past 12 years, so I'll give it a 9. The album drops September 8th.

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