You got you a fast horse darlin’
But all you do is complain it ain’t a Maserati.
You had a soul that you left back in Memphis
but your mama ain’t New York she is pure
Tori Amos, “Fast Horse”
Tori’s new album, Abnormally Attracted To Sin isn’t an easy one for me to rate. Let me explain…
The last Tori album which I consider excellent is 2002’s Scarlet’s Walk. Even though that album splits opinions, I absolutely love it – the whole U.S. roadtrip concept behind it works for me, and the songs are fantastic (though difficult to puzzle out sometimes, as is normal for Tori). After that… well, it’s been a bit spotty. I don’t much care for The Beekeeper; the album has a couple of really good tracks (Parasol, Power of Orange Knickers, Toast), but on the whole it’s a bit “meh”. It’s bland.
Here I must add that I usually listen to and think of Tori’s albums as, well, “albums”, instead of groups of songs. They work (or don’t) as wholes, with each song lending something to the mix. For me, Tori has always been an “album” artist instead of “single”, if that makes any sense. Each album has a “feel”, a personality.
Anyway, American Doll Posse was a step up from Beekeeper and it contains perhaps my favorite “modern” Tori track, Bouncing Off Clouds. Unfortunately the album is a bit too schizophrenic for me to really love. That’s by design, I guess, since it’s a concept album based on various very different women (“dolls”), with wildly different personalities. There are great songs here and the album doesn’t suffer from the blandness of Beekeeper… but it’s just a bit too disjointed to totally work. It’s also overlong, a common problem with all three of Tori’s latest albums; all would have benefited from some tighter editing, leaving some songs for “b-sides” and bonus disk material.
So now we have the new album. It’s been getting pretty mixed reviews, and to be totally honest, the first time I listened to it I was quite disappointed. Nothing really stood out, even the single track Welcome To England didn’t really grab me. It was hard to get an impression, the album just slid on by. Regardless, there was something there, and the album did feel like a “whole” more than the previous two albums and had “feel” I liked. Don’t ask me exactly why, this is an emotional response, not an analytical one. I found myself listening to the album again. And again. And again. And each time, I found myself liking it more, finding more layers in it. The songs started opening up, and I started to really like some of them (Fast Horse is a current favorite).
…so. Here I am, wondering what to say about the album. Right now, I find myself liking it quite a lot. It’s not up to Scarlet’s Walk level, but I would claim that it’s the best of her three latest albums (much as it surprises me to say that, given my first impression). It’s a subtle album, and one that demands repeat listens, it just doesn’t open up all that fast. There are some weak tracks, but the thing works as a whole… and as I said, that’s important to me.
I’m not sure I’d recommend this to people who aren’t Tori fans (just as I wouldn’t recommend Beekeeper or American Doll Posse). But to people who do like Tori’s music: don’t give up on this one too soon. There are gems hidden here.