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Album Review: Tori Amos – Native Invaders

4 min read
Photo by Paulina Otylie Surys/DECCA

As one of the most celebrated and respected songwriters of our generation, Tori Amos has carved one of the most impressive catalogues of any musical act in history. Her personal odes mixed with observational tributes to life have brought to life some of the greatest masterpieces in music. Ever since Amos erupted onto the singer-songwriter scene with her debut solo album, Little Earthquakes in 1992, she has gifted her fans with a total of 15 studio albums, several compilations and countless bootlegs; all capturing a unique theme and carrying a depth very rarely heard from an artist. 25 years on from the release of her debut, Amos has now released her 15th record in the form of the truly spectacular Native Invaders.

Her signature instrument opens the record with Reindeer Kings’ piano keys reverberating throughout a chilling number socked in that familiar Amos output – layered vocals, whispery melodies and a gorgeous string scented backdrop make this opener one of the finest openers of any of the icons 15 studio releases and marks a promising start to Native Invaders.

We aren’t disappointed either as the musician then unfolds a gorgeously dark piano ballad in the shape of Breakaway. Metaphors run rampant on the number – “This jungle is dark / But full of diamonds / That can cut and exploit” – sounding out like a warning bell and reminding us of the songwriting genius that Amos has become throughout her 25+ year career before she transforms the opening half of the record with the upbeat and musically eccentric Up The Creek. Here Amos plays around with vocal effects and dances around a nostalgic backdrop of wailing electric guitars, picked acoustic guitars and 90’s pop melodies.

Amos has long been a strong supporter of minorities who are a target to those in power or those narrow-minded in the world. She has been a proud and very vocal advocate for the equal rights of the LGBT community and has been a powerful voice for victims of rape and her records are soaked with themes that stem from personal life accounts to the struggles encountered by those living in dire situations and often touch on topics such as sexuality, religion and feminism. She is also quick to voice her opinions when it comes to political unrest and so the past year has been a generous contributor to Amos’ work. Her dismay at the state of her country can be heard on tracks like Bang where she declares “Bang the world now traumatized / By a cluster of hostile humans who side / With their warlords of hate”. The track sways from darkened verses to whimsical and almost lighthearted and innocent chorus’ that offer tranquility amongst an otherwise angst-laden message of revolution.

As with all of Amos’ repertoire, the topics that snake through songs on Native Invaders lean heavily on a serious leg. While this may be the case, the bulk of Native Invaders carry beautiful and enticing melodies that – much like that impressive back catalogue – won’t intimidate the average listener. Tracks like the sweet closer, Cloud Riders with its casual rhythm and bouncy vocals is easily one of the best tracks of the musicians latter recording years while the instrumentally stripped back Wings allows us to really absorb the singers crisp, seasoned vocals. It’s these vocals that – alongside the intricate instrumentation and eccentric wordsmith of the tracks enclosed within the record – carry Native Invaders to a level above most records released this year. Her seemingly effortless ability to capture some of the more serious and taboo topics is to Amos’ credit and to deliver them with such power, conviction and soul is a true testament to the legacy of Amos’ impeccable and blinding shine in music.

Native Invaders is another superbly crafted collection from one of the most grounded and in-touch songwriters, story-tellers and vocalists of our time. If there is one album to own in 2017 – it’s this one right here!