First time ever – Mountain solo. The ending is awesome. That is all at risk of becoming an even lesser veiled fanboy.
In a wonderful programme on the excellent Arte channel (which seems to do some amazing programmes and live concerts) Tori Amos meets Hauschka – two excellent artists. They then go on a trip around Berlin for the night, shopping for pianos, shoes, paintings and then jamming out at the end. It’s so fascinating to see two artists meet and share ideas and ideals. Watch it in full below:
In 2012 I felt that actually some of my usual favourite artists played it very safe and therefore when I came to look at whose made the top 10 albums of the year, there are four completely new artists to me and two that I’ve only known since last year. That’s exciting for my ears for the years to come.
A few self-imposed rules are in this time round. Tori Amos’ Gold Dust (not that it’d have made it) and Patrick Wolf’s “Sundark & Riverlight” (could have done) are reworks of older music that I’ve chosen to ignore them. Also Atticus Finch & Imogen Heap, despite making some of my favourite music, have done only singles in 2012 and therefore isn’t included as there’s no album yet. A separate top 10 for game soundtracks will feature later.
Honourable Mentions: Jesca Hoop, A City on A Lake, Module, Garbage & Sunday Lane.
10) Arcana – As Bright As A Thousand Suns
Arcana have been around for years and I preferred the more melodic and percussive band effort compared to the melancholic Peter Bjargo solo album. It’s one of those albums you feel like you’ve already known for ages with the beautiful mesh of different instruments from aeons passed.
Try Out: As Bright As A Thousand Suns
I had never heard of the band before a “You may like” on Amazon presented their album to me. From just the samples I felt like I’d been on a journey. The guitar work, the way the tracks just build and build into life defining climaxes and the vocal and string arrangements are simply amazing.
Try Out: Lightning Song
The wonderfully detuned and mumble happy Soap&Skin returned with a short but beautifully formed second album fusing her piano and industrial bleep roots together. What was made see’s her ripping her heart out and smearing it over your speakers. Her screams are like yelps and the quiet moments are like lullaby’s for the lost.
Try Out: Boat Turns Toward the Port
Rifftastic bass/drum duo Clatter blasted back onto my speakers in 2012 with their best album to date mixing nutty percussive chops, strong vocals and euphoric choruses to mosh to. I still feel like I have to tell everyone there’s only two in the duo as there’s so much sound coming from them – it’s my favourite rock album of 2012.
Try Out: Strawberry Park
Yes, they are an indie rock group but I don’t think of them as a rock group – they’re like a spacious story group. Alt-J go out of their way to make sure no song follows a well trodden path and their lyrics are cryptically awesome. I’m so glad they got the Mercury Prize this year although I hope that doesn’t mean doom like so many others before them.
Try Out: Breezeblocks
Internet sensation for her music video strangeness, Kin marked her first full album release. It’s dirty, filthy, emotive and like you’re freaking out in slow motion. I personally love the way it all feels together as one seamless piece in a way and when played with the barmy DVD of continuous music videos telling a story of sorts, it only draws you further into the world of Kin.
Try Out: Drops
Such an early release in 2012, Lila Rose became my favourite album in 2012 for a lot of it until some later releases pushed it down. The mix of pop beats along with mature alternative slants, minor keys and Lila’s very downbeat vocal delivery that suggests knowledge beyond her years all merge perfectly to make easily the best radio playable album of 2012. It’s like she’s found her own mini percussive piano pop genre for herself.
Try Out: Casting Shadows
Recently reviewed a few weeks ago, Carina Round’s latest album is such a repost to clean-cut music. Messy, harrowing, haunting, unleashed and furious in places, Tigermending’s synth alt-rock mash-up goes out its way to tell you stories from the bottle of every bottle and alleyway. Carina has never sounded so good and she can still push out anthemic ballads too.
Try Out: Weird Dream
Fiona’s output is slow at best but it is always worth the wait. In many ways The Idler Wheel is her most direct and simple to date but with the purity comes the undistilled emotional impact of each song. Her vocals rasp and growl, her melodies stay stuck in your head for days and way the album comes together as a whole is phenomenal.
Try Out: Anything We Want
After thinking for many year it would never happen I was delighted to have Dead Can Dance back together and their album proved that sometimes when two people work together magic happens regardless. An exercise in music of period and territories, each track pushes off into different versions of the Middle East. The instrumentation is rich, the melodies are sumptuous, the vocals of Brendan and Lisa are as strong as ever and although the album feels like they are separate in many ways, you can feel looking deeper how each has effected the other. Mesmerising.
Try Out: Kiko
And there we have it. My favourite albums of 2012.
Don’t forget you can also listen or even buy my latest studio album here too which I would be blessed to be considered in anyone elses top 10 of anything
The top 10 game soundtracks of 2012 will feature soon.
Reworking old songs isn’t something new for Tori Amos, after the remastering of Tales of a Librarian and to a further extend the boxset A Piano. This time she’s taken a collection of tracks and given them the fully orchestrated treatment.
The track selection covers the majority of Tori’s career and whilst sometimes the tracks really aren’t too different from the originals, they do all feel like they’ve been given a fresh lick of paint. “Flavor” is the track that has been absolutely re imagined from a spacious slow electro pop track into a sombre reflective symphony. It really suits the song and gives it a completely different light. It’s the fact that the rest of the album isn’t nearly as daring with its choices and compositions that is the shame really. “Yes, Anastasia” is cut in half, as it usually is when played live. This cuts right to the chase where the strings pound in with the original and so it almost feels like a new song. “Jackie’s Strength” feels more regal without any of the guitars and chugging strings – this version is more pretty. “Cloud On My Tongue” feels much stronger and foreboding with a deeper orchestration – it feels like a real improvement. “Precious Things” meanwhile is a very welcome chameleon effort with strings replacing the guitars increasing the drama to fever pitch even when sung in a lower octave. “Gold Dust” loses none of its potency either but its inclusion, while beautiful, confuses me as I was under the impression it was originally orchestrated!
“Star of Wonder” is a wonderful inclusion with its twisting string arrangement and general bouncing and Middle Eastern vibe. “Winter” again is still as heartfelt, as is “Flying Dutchman” which finally gets its time to shine on a full release. “Programmable Soda” is cute, as is “Snow Cherries From France” which is improved purely by giving it a little extra space to breathe. “Marianne” is powerfully arranged and is a wonderful alternative version, whilst “Silent All These Years” is a little more melancholy than before. The closer on the deluxe edition is “Girl Disappearing” which too has more of an emotive and explosive ending.
I think Gold Dust will be a great addition for fans and for any new fans that came onboard via “Night of Hunters” and are after a classical side to Tori. I hope the CD does well as I’ve a feeling an album of some really daring choices would make for a much more interesting and unique CD but “Gold Dust” as is, is a great reminder that she has been a powerhouse for 20 years and none of that magic is lost.
Quite simply – the night was an absolutely transcending magical experience from start to end. I felt all kinds of emotions running through me to the point where I wanted to burst.
Whilst I was perhaps very slightly disappointed that the song selection on Gold Dust was predictable, it was that for a reason. I have a feeling if Gold Dust does well, at some point a volume 2 may be done that will be more daring in its choices – maybe not full orchestra but a quartet again. Each song is wonderfully crafted however and there’s no denying that and the sheer power of the orchestra really pushed home the big moments. Tori was so entranced by the orchestra she came out for Flying Dutchman, sat there and kept watching completely missing her cue! She promptly turned to the audience and said “I’ve fucked it up AGAIN!” In fact Tori was clearly loving absolutely every minute of it. She was beaming, enchanting and having the time of her life fulfilling a dream.
As for the setlist of highlights Flying Dutchman was powerful, Marianne was fiery with the orchestral freak-out moments, Ribbons Undone was wonderfully heartfelt, Girl Disappearing was spellbinding with its final chorus – as was the second half of Edge of the Moon. Precious Things was just as formidable as ever but I loved that the encore included Star of Wonder which is fabulous orchestrated, Programmable Soda which was great fun and Our New Year which is so underrated – I’m so glad it got some love. The final brass booms of “You’re Not Here” had me almost welling up.
Here’s some clips from other fans:
“Flavor” originally from Abnormally Addicted to Sin is now the latest single for “Gold Dust” the orchestral reworking album coming out 1st October. I like the rendition and I imagine the new album will be a very grande and sweeping one.
Tori Amos certainly has gone all things orchestral lately and it seems to suit her. Now she’s revisiting old songs for a fully orchestrated re-imagining. The album to be entitled “Gold Dust”, which in itself is a heartfelt string drenched number, is to feature songs reworked such as Silent All These Years, Precious Things and Jackie’s Strength. It also appears to have Flavor and Snow Cherries From France on it too.
To go with it will be a small tour and tickets/dates are available at http://www.toriamos.com as and when, although three dates are already up. The album is due October.
Initially I wasn’t going to review this because readers will know that I fell in love with Night of Hunters from day one but “Sin Palabras” is an interesting take because it’s essentially the karaoke version of the album itself.
All vocals are stripped away and the arrangements are pulled to the fore. Here suddenly you can hear the stunning detail of all the strings, woodwind and piano working in perfect harmony together. Standouts are the frantic “Shattering Sea” that literally sounds like an entire orchestra is going nuts, “Fearlessness” literally playing like endless waves that wash you away and the jaw dropping “Star Whisperer” which still spell binds me now. Even the slower tracks still are beautiful and the piano carries the main vocal lines so you can still feel the entire melody anyway.
It has in fact given me and utterly new appreciation for the original album – plus some excellent string arrangements to sing over the top of. What is there not to love?
It’s that time of year again – a wrap up of the top 10 albums I have had the pleasure of buying. This list is for musical artist album releases only. A separate one will be done for game soundtracks. Here goes:
10) Zola Jesus – Vessel
A fantastic culmination and one of my most recent new discoveries, it just edges into the top 10 by providing me with one of the few dark and damp albums of 2011. Her voice harks back to generations of old and the electronics and dramatic song structures make it a treat to visit the darkness every time.
09) Faun – Eden
Band members have left and been replaced and while you can tell that Faun’s sound has changed forever. It still sits firmly in the Pagan Folk genre they’ve helped create but the vocals are more hymn like, English is introduced and the overall sound is one more of a forest pixie raging war on humanity. Either way, it’s still utterly superb.
08) St Vincent – Strange Mercy
St Vincent makes the most clumsy, sloppy and seemingly out of control music seem to still have order, beauty and integrity. Her third studio album is full of all the quirks, embellishments and random freak outs we’ve come to expect but in a more assured manner and with more layers than ever before!
07) Gregory Douglass – Lucid
Having watched Gregory over various live net shows introduce, change, develop and grow Lucid from a concept into a fully evolved being, it’s a fantastic dream concept album that works from start to finish. Showcasing some great technical wizardry, it features some of the most catchy numbers and some of the most heartbreaking from his career to date.
06) Amiina – Puzzle
From what I thought was a lovely, quaint but slightly one-sided debut, Puzzle lifts Amiina into a new level. The quartet have perfected their craft of weaving the most unlikely of instruments together into lullabies but now also into powerful epic seven minute masterpieces.
05) Bjork – Biophilia
Never one to sit still, Biophilia is a career spanning genre bending full flow freak out. Never compromising, always challenging – it contains highlights of Bjork’s most beautiful, most powerful and most scary moments of her musical career.
04) Tori Amos – Night of Hunters
Tori Amos remains my favourite musical artist of all time. The reason this hasn’t reached the top spot is purely because it’s an album that requires a lot of time and effort to digest and I’m not really there yet. The string arrangements are beautiful and the songs are fantastic. Many have called it a return to form but I never saw her falter. A bold new direction and one that pays off.
03) Lamb – 5
The return of Lamb was unexpected but much appreciated with the perfect blend of Lou’s own solo styles and Andy’s more electronic edges. The album is much more direct and approachable with instant hooks throughout, making it by far my favourite Lamb album to date and hopefully will give them confidence to continue on.
02) tUne-YaRdS – W H O K I L L
Only discovering the sheer genius of this lady last year, being able to enjoy the growth from début to album number 2 was phenomenal. All the funky vocal collages are still here, as is the home ramshackle production but this time fused with brass and some more tip-top production too. It just seems like such a natural bloom. Magical.
01) Charlotte Martin – Dancing on Needles
The album that keeps giving with all the b-sides being released online, it’s a perfect merger of all Charlotte’s previous works of piano, guitar, keyboard and pounding drums. Her voice is an absolute marvel and every song is as achingly beautiful and painful as the last. Without doubt my album of the year.
Narrowly missing out were PJ Harvey, Kate Bush, Sarah Slean, The Go Team and Omodaka.
In a lovely twist, Tori Amos has released in digital format only an instrumental version of “Night of Hunters”. Removing all the voice, all that’s left is piano and orchestration. It was released without fanfare today in America but strangely holds an April 2012 release for us in the UK. I think that may jump forward however. Samples are available on amazon and iTunes.
Last night was my first trip to the Royal Albert Hall and despite having a giant pillar right to the right hand side of me, the venue was absolutely beautiful – a perfect setting for Tori Amos and the Apollon Musacete Quartet to cause an absolute riot on stage.
From the opener “Shattering Sea” we were treated to some of the most sumptuous versions of Tori’s catalogue to date. As with the last tour, things have suddenly tightened up onto an on rails approach but this time it’s amplified because the quartet are providing a stunning backdrop. “Shattering Sea” along with “Precious Things” were the two big screamers amongst what was a relatively ballad heavy set list although with it just being strings and piano that was to be expected. Other surprises were fantastically dark renditions of “Suede” and “Cruel” where the quartet turned the strings to percussive plucks to provide some excellent backing. As a personal highlight I got a simmering version of “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, a unique version of “Hey Jupiter” and one of my very favourites “Siren”. I say unique for “Hey Jupiter” as sadly during “Way Down” the previous track Tori’s piano suddenly became very distorted through the speakers making that song sound like it was coming through a dodgy bootleg. The problem persisted into Jupiter and so they turned the piano off to sort the problem so the first part was just the strings and vocals!
Another snippet I’d like to mention was that “Star Whisperer” in its full glory live was sensational.
All in all, despite the random technical problem, I was blown away. I always have been entranced with her live and she continues to do so even when she isn’t grabbing her crotch, screaming at high volume and straddling benches.
In anticipation of my attendance to see her live in concert tomorrow – here’s a unique (and possibly one time only) version of Seven Sisters followed by Pretty Good Year.
Tori Amos never sits still. This latest album see’s her drop band instrumentation altogether and produce an absolutely sublime orchestrated album. Underpinned by the trusty piano, vocal cameo’s from family members and some lovely interpretations of classical themes, it’s a cracking album.
Opener “Shattered Sea” is growling and dark. The low rumbles of piano thunder against the crashing string and wind instruments as they build and roll like waves of power over the speakers. What’s great about this and every other track is that they are variations of classical themes of the 16th to 18th century. I’m not one to be able to pick out the themes but then going and finding the original tracks after, it’s interesting to see how they’re woven into the track. After the fierce opener “Snowblind” introduces Tori’s daughter Natashya Hawley as a vocal where the two interplay off each other. Natashya’s vocals have a real husk to them and convey a lot of soul. Should she want to, she could have an interesting musical career from the voice alone. The two voices sit very well together as the bluesy and sprawling piano floats in and out.
“Battle of Trees” in a near nine minute epic. The strings in this song are beautifully arranged are they pluck the main melody. Tori’s vocal’s also shine here too with a lot of different ranges hit. It’s not the catchiest song on the album at all but it still has a knack of standing out and staying with you longer afterwards as a general feeling. “Fearlessness” is another track that emotes a feeling as they piano and oboes flow effortlessly. What I will say about both tracks is that upon each listen I find new instrument flourishes and appreciate them ten times more each play through.
“Cactus Practice” is a song that reminds me of Fantasia for some reason. It’s heavily wind instrument based and of all the songs, this is the one that sounds like it still is in the 1800′s. Natashya’s vocals really suit the oboes and bassoons. “Star Whisperer” is the longest track at just under ten minutes. Slow and deliberate, the track slowly evolves and has some beautiful transitions, particularly the “I heard you scream from the other side of the mountain” where Tori is able to flex her piano chops and sound utterly adorable. Tori’s vocals are on top form throughout but the instrumentation often takes the limelight. Here in this track there’s a lovely instrumental section where the track creates a frenzy before it moves into its final few minutes and it’s some of the best music I’ve heard all year.
“Job’s Coffin” is an excellent track. A simple piano riff embellished with horns and clarinets. Natashya takes the lead vocals here with Tori playing backup. It’s just a simple song that sticks in your head for a long time after and it was after Shattered Sea, the next track I stuck straight on repeat. “Nautical Twilight” is very classical with thick arpeggios and a theatrical turn of vocal display. I love how the verses build up to a specific climax which she fades away to reflection straight after. “Your Ghost” is another track that’s got a strong melody and it actually feels very Christmas orientated for some reason and sounds like it sound be on Midwinter Graces! Beautiful and quaint.
“Edge of the Moon” is a song of two halves. The first half is a downbeat and careful and the second half is a full free-flowing burst of energy. I actually thought it was two separate tracks at first but they go so well together with some great dueling vocals. “The Chase” is fantastic track that has an underlying tension throughout as Tori and Natashya dual each other with some fantastic lyrical parries. It’s just something completely different to anything Amos has done before and so refreshing. “Night of the Hunters” introduces for just one track Kelsey Dobyns as a third voice and her vocals are sublime and angelic. A song of many faces and moods, it shapeshifts around between nostalgia, freeform and some beautiful interplaying and overlaying vocals.
“Seven Sisters” is a gorgeous instrumental between the piano and the clarinet. It really showcases Amos’ power as a composer, a performer and an emotive musician. This is also captured in the album closer “Carry” which is about as close to a single as you could get on this album. A ballad of sorts, it’s the most conventional song alongside Nautical Twilight and Jobs Coffin but holds a completely different emotion. By the time you’ve finished you feel almost like you’ve been reborn by how the previous track feels light an enlightening and Carry feels like a walking away from the wreckage piece.
I’ll make no bones about it, Tori Amos is one of, if not the favourite artist of mine musically but I can absolutely see why others wouldn’t appreciate or like her music. Night of the Hunters will not bring back old fans who want Little Earthquakes part 1,000,000 but this is generally like nothing she’s done before and deserves to be listened with fresh ears and classical lovers will find a new album that they can enthuse over. I for one am bowled over yet again.
Freshly released today, “Carry” is absolutely beautiful and if you share it via her facebook you’ll get a treat with “Shattered Sea” too. If you can’t wait that long – click below! Night of the Hunters is out 19th September and I for one cannot wait.
Tori Amos today announced “Night of Hunters”, a new album that’s penciled in for a release in September this year. The concept appears to be harking back to old classical pieces and taking elements of them into a 21st century song. It’s set over the period of an evening about a woman whose coming to the end of a relationship. Tori loves a concept but this one sounds like it could be a different flow altogether. We await more news about the album and the following tour!
Everyone on this webpage knows I’m a massive fan of Tori and she gets plenty of dollops of love here but a new heart goes out for the Orchestral live shows she’s been doing. Here is a orchestrated version of “Precious Things“. Rumor has it after the show she returned to replay three songs so perhaps although there’s no DVD, we may well end up with an official bootleg release! Fingers crossed!
Something I’m trying to rectify is my lack of live concerts I’ve been to lately and so Tori Amos seemed the best place to start. Playing on the “Wicked” stage at the London Victoria Apollo, Tori as a solo artist is a lady that never falters live.
This is the fifth Tori Amos concert I’ve been to and this was possibly the most intense and enjoyable to date. With just a piano and a keyboard, she straddles her bench and plays both while howling her tunes with all the energy and empathy you could ask for.
Personal highlights included a haunting opening of “Bells For Her”, a very intense “Precious Things” a aching beautiful “Garlands”, the wails of “Hey Jupiter”, the foot stomping “Beauty of Speed” and a most fiery cover of “Personal Jesus”. However not one song went a miss and I was utterly captivated from start to finish.
If you ever want to see a singer/songwriter bare all on stage, take yourself to a solo Tori Amos concert and you will feel every minute of the road with her. Mesmerising.
Apologies for a few days of hushness but that’ll soon be sorted However after being devasted to not get to see Utada earlier this year, I’ve grabbed tickets to see Tori Amos on 18/07/10 in London. We’ll have a nice juicy review afterwards but here’s a reminder of Tori’s live prowess!
Imogen has performed a unique and original interpretation of Tori Amos’ “Cornflake Girl”. Watch the cover here. It’s nice to hear the song completely reworked and almost unrecognisable. You can’t call her a copy cat!