With an envious back catalogue scattered with some of the most iconic masterpieces in music, Tori Amos is gearing up for the release of her 14th studio album this month.
When Unrepentant Geraldines arrived in our inbox in late March it was like Christmas had come exceptionally early this year. Not only is the album masterful in its lyrical divulgence, something that has become synonymous and fairly expected with any Tori Amos record over the years, but the quality of the singer-songwriters latest work does not falter from her previous studio albums as we learned going through this latest musical treasure chest.
Thankfully Tori isn’t an artist who waits too long before releasing a new record. Her work has been consistent not just in quality over the years but also consistency with a new collection being offered every couple of years. She even goes as far as throwing in numerous bootlegs and side projects along the way, such as 2012’s retrospective reworking Gold Dust and 2009’s festive Midwinter Graces to keep fans satisfyingly replenished.
The record opens with homage to her home country with America inviting us into the new 14 track collection. This gorgeous mid-tempo piano number is calm and dreamy for the most part but breaks into a contrasting bridge near its closing, making for a hit that is structurally quite diverse.
The obvious standout on the new album is its lead single Troubles Lament with its memorable and hook drenched melody that is perfect from radio-play and contains some haunting Americana guitar-work. The lyrics tell a story of a woman fleeing from the devil (“she fell out with Satan, now she’s on the run”) while Tori’s vocals show off a rawness and skill that is testament to her reputation as one of music’s greatest vocalists.
Wild Way is a gentle piano ballad with strikingly hostile lyrics; Tori declaring “I hate you” several times during the engaging yet short 3 minute offering while Maids of Elfen-mere is a poetic centre-piece to the album that includes some enchanting layered vocals and a deep piano spine that gives the track a darker feel to it.
Tori’s previous records have been heavily doused in classical arrangements, no doubt due to her signing with German classical label Deutsche Grammophon for the last few years. With this latest offering being released through Mercury Classics, Tori has gone back to the piano-driven style that made her a household name throughout the nineties so fans of the singers earlier material will have further reason to celebrate this new record.
Amos’ ventures into slightly mainstream pop on mother-daughter collaboration Promises as the singers 13 year old daughter Natashya offers her maturing vocals to the track, allowing for the record to take a footing in pop music. The vocal delivery in moments throughout the track, particularly the chorus as she sings “be there, be there, be there”, is very contrasting to what we know of Amos’ style but the delivery is really quite mesmerizing. The apple certainly does not fall very far from the musical tree in this family.
Giants Rolling Pin invites some horns into the record, providing this track with an old-fashioned yet fun addition to the album. Here, Tori allows the instruments to steal the limelight while Oysters takes centre stage as one of the records standout hits with the numbers playful vocal arrangement and light piano structure affords the track with a sturdy backdrop of the musicians signature instrument. The textured vocal on the song is also enchanting as the singer duets with herself for the duration of this spine-tingling beauty.
If we were to compare Unrepentant Geraldines with any of the musicians previous material, Scarlets Walk and Under The Pink are the obvious sister records. The new album swims in similar waters to the syrupy, Americana richness of the 2002 release but contains a freshness that places the musician into modern territory with ease.
It won’t be surprising if Unrepentant Geraldines fails to reach any notable chart position – Tori seems above all of the competitive nonsense of the music industry and has been for many years. Her records aren’t about #1’s and selling out like the vast majority of artists whose sole mission is to score hit after hit and sell as many items with their faces on it as humanly possible. Tori is about musical accomplishment on a whole different level and creating a masterpiece with each and every release and that is what she has done yet again with Unrepentant Geraldines.