As I am doing with Bjork now, for the first half of 2009 I waded through Tori Amos’ back catalogue. Maybe one day I will re-post my findings from the messageboard I did it on, but for now I’ll just take a look at her latest.
08 Shattering Sea – Very portentous piano to open the show, into some rather Wallace & Gromit-esque orchestral manouevres. I really love her piano stuff, I was very pleased to hear of this classical foray. A very stormy feel to it, though I’m no closer to understanding what she’s on about these days. Love the language, it’s a strong opener. It does go on for a while, but I’d better get used to this. Still, I like it a lot.
08 Snowblind – A new addition to the albums is Tori’s daughter who cameoed on Midwinter Graces, but gets a lot of airtime now. She has a really unusual tone to her voice and I really like it, it certainly breaks up the vocals a bit and makes me appreciate both women’s voices more. There’s a lot of the usual ramblings, but they might as well be singing a foreign language, it doesn’t detract from the feel of the tracks. Instrumentation lovely as before.
08 Battle of trees – OK get your DVT stockings on, this is a long haul one. I like that she’s resisted the urge to paint this whole album with moody sweeping strings and drama, this one has some lovely plinky plonky percussion. Some of her vocals really make me think of early Tori, after the first minute anyway. Not a lot of need for this to go on so long, but somehow I don’t get fidgety. Though understand this is good as an accompaniment, I’m not sure I’d ever really sit down and listen to this INTENTLY.
09 Fearlessness – Am I overrating this album? Possibly, but it’s consistent in tone and quality so far, so I guess similiar scores will follow. Anyway this is more reminiscent of “Scarlet’s Walk”, quite dark piano soundscapes, like Carbon. I love her vocals that just glide over the beautiful arrangements, with some really soaring moments in there. Perhaps shorter tracks would have made it more accessible to the general public, but you know her, if she had shortened the tracks we’d only get MORE of them.
07 Cactus Practice – Tori Jr returns here in this unusual duet. A bit quaint really, but her daughter’s vocals are really quite good (especially as she’s only 14) and mesh well with her mother’s. The whole Cactissss Practiiiice stuff is a bit odd but I’ve given up any hope of understanding this bitch so I’ll just enjoy the music. She really has picked a prime selection of pieces to use.
08 Star Whisperer – The longest track now, nearly clocking in at 10 minutes… and finally we get something that DOES outstay its welcome. Sort of. The first 3 minutes seem totally separate from the rest of it, and it emerges into a pretty “Under The Pink”-style gem. Mostly carried by a LONG instrumental section that last so long that when Tori finally gets back from the toilet you had forgotten you were listening to a Tori album. In some ways that’s good, as she doesn’t seem to have a lot to add apart from that “other side of the mountain” refrain. Perhaps overscored for this one, but I think that after the first 3 minutes are out of the way, the rest is really quite gorgeous.
07 Job’s Coffin – Where is Job’s coffin, exactly? In space? Anyway, Natashya takes the reins again. I wonder if she knows what she’s singing about. I imagine she just agrees with whatever her mum says so she doesn’t go off on one. A nice light-hearted piece to counter the all-very-serious previous track. Nothing I can really say I dislike, but it’s a bit of a non-starter. Sounds like feminism to me, I probably wouldn’t get it.
06 Nautical Twilight – OK cooling off a bit now, this is a bit of a snoozer. I do love the clarinet-work though, he’s good at his fingering isn’t he? While the formula for this album has gone well so far, this is one too many of the moody piano pieces, it’s starting to sound a bit too similiar to the earlier tracks.
06 Your ghost – Ahh, let’s have some nice relaxing strings. Quite a pretty waltzy piece now, if we are harking back to earlier work, I’d stay (for better or worse) this might get grouped up with The Beekeeper. Quite pleasant but unexciting.
06 Edge of the moon – Maybe I’m just weary from Tori overdose by this point. Amos poisoning. This is definite Beekeeper territory, just going on and on, it’s like she’s just making it up as she goes along. Marmalade Skies? PLEASE. It sounds like it’s finishing halfway through, but then suddenly it’s a different song. Well not quite, but at least the music has perked up enough for me to upgrade the mark a smidge.
08 The Chase – Tori Jr is back, in a memorably strange track. Momma Amos is turning into various animals, and Tori Jr is schooling her on how she’s going to get the beat-down from the various predators whatever she does. There’s a lot of psychobabble crap in here, but I do quite like this. I’ve never really seen a HEN as a particular threat, but I suppose I’m not made of corn.
08 Night of Hunters – With that predatory introduction, we’re onto the title track. Who is singing the first bit? I read her niece was doing vocals too, is that her? The vocals from whoever is doing it fit the tone well, and the arrangement is well-chosen. The duet harmonies are a bit OTT but it’s quite CLIMACTIC. At least the quality is perking up a bit. This does carry on a bit though…
09 Seven Sisters – A well-deserved instrumental one, beautifully done though. The flutist (is that the term? It didn’t sound like a clarinet) really does a lovely job. Not a lot to say, it’s very short and instrumental, but really gorgeous.
06 Carry – Let’s wrap this one up then. I just don’t GET why this was seemingly the first (buzz) single, it doesn’t really display the feel of the album, nor is it particularly good. It is a typical Tori “boring 2nd half” track, and I can’t imagine this selling the album to anybody, it’s really MADNESS. YAWN.
Well that wasn’t anywhere near as bad as I was expecting. A good concept, well carried-out for the most part. I feel like I have more of an interest in classical music in some small way, at least feel like it’s something I could enjoy as much as more modern work (at least Tori’s stuff). The tracks are ridiculously long sometimes, which is great when it was a good track to start with, but drawn-out tracks like Nautical Twilight can be a slow-death just as much as quality-control-free 20-track beasts she came up with in the last decade. Still, certainly a lot of promise, don’t need to write this old twart off yet.
Keepers for the iPod: Shattering Sea, Snowblind, Battle of trees, Fearlessness, Star Whisperer, The Chase, Night of Hunters, Seven Sisters.