Now on studio album 10, Tori Amos never takes a break. Her fanbase may well be smaller than it was almost 20 years ago but her spirit and passion for what she does has never diminished. This time around Abnormally Attracted to Sin keeps her evolutionary wheel turning in a kind of back catalogue style. Everything feels familiar while maintaining a fresh edge to it.
“Give” is a dark industrial opener with heavy drum loops and discordant piano’s and synth’s. It’s signals a return to some degree to a darker edge of Tori’s music. It’s not a full swing over but there’s definitely moments of it. The production on this track, as well as the album overall is of very high quality.
Single “Welcome To England” is very representative of the new direction and is radio friendly without really having a great hook. It’s like Scarlet’s Walk was made with left over keyboards from the To Venus & Back album and is a real grower. It’s also a strange choice of a single as its not the strongest track either. Strange is a word to describe “Strong Black Vine” which see’s Tori let it all hang out rock style. It’s full of passion and her vocals are at their soaring off key best.
“Flavor” is a real highlight. Very sparse and empty whilst holding a great atmospheric tension, Tori’s light vocals are a complete contrast to what we’ve heard on the opening three rockier tracks. The juxtaposition of it works very well too. Then on the complete opposite “Not Dying Today” is almost Amos gone hill billy! Sounding like a Beekeeper offcast, it has a sunny demeanour about it which although sounds good, will not go down well with established fans – especially sing talking in verses. However if you take it face value, its a fun catchy song.
“Maybe California” was given away for free and its one of the gems of the album. You can place all the gizmo’s on the record but give Tori a piano and some strings and she can reduce a grown man to tears. A classic song. Classic also is “Curtain Call” which is a fantastically melodic yet almost bitter song about getting older and/or losing your job. It perfectly captures the mood of the world today and is a real anthem. Also anthemic is a smooth way is “Fire To Your Plain” which manages to be interesting whilst being middle of the road pop/rock.
Off on a tangent comes the random “Police Me” which is either complete genius or complete mess depending on how you look at it, however I fall on the first option. It’s heavily processed electro-rock which never sits still and flits from various different sounds and is a definite new sound for Tori to get into. Another new sound is the stage-showy styled “That Guy”. Amos was to be writing a musical and one wonders if the project has ended up split up across the album. This song is new territory for Amos again but its again a sound that seems to suit her, especially with the big finale. The third of the off tangent trio is title track “Abnormally Attracted to Sin” which is an electronic based track with a killer bridge early on. Tori’s soaring vocals make this another stand out.
Back down to Earth we come with “500 miles” and “Mary Jane” which are both cute yet drowned by being surrounded by instantly more memorable tracks either side. “Mary Jane” is the only piano/vocal track but is a bit jazzy hands which may translate well live, but it doesn’t work so well on CD. “500 Miles” is saccharine pop/rock which feels a bit out of place on the album but stands better on its own.
“Starling” has the most haunting riff on the album and is quietly confessional. It’s a masterpiece of a track but has a bit of a strange bridge that breaks the flow and atmosphere the rest of the track as built up. It’s not bad by any means, I just have it differently playing in my head – but its an unusual choice to take. Unusual choices are what this album is all about, for better or worse – from the tracklisting to the array of emotions each track goes for.
“Fast Horse” is the big anthem of the album. Sounding like its jumped straight from Scarlet’s Walk but with more grunt, it has an otherworldly quality to it while being completely rocking. A definite highlight and the lyrics are inspired. “Ophelia” is straight to the jugular in a heart wrenching song that is a personal favourite again. Tori can manipulate her voice to sound like she’s going to burst into tears very well and its showcased here. “Lady in Blue” is a show stealing finale which starts off very jazzy and spacious, gently taking its time to envelope you before building up to a big ending. It’s great to have a blast off ending on an album for once. The bonus track on the deluxe edition is a sparse, downbeat “Oscar’s Theme” which is like looking out of the window watching the album sail away while you wave goodbye.
Abnormally Attracted to Sin is a difficult one. I personally have really enjoyed it from the very first listen. It’s great to see Tori Amos back writing songs that have real meat to them after the fantastic, albeit lighter recent albums. However from that there is a clear divide on the album between the dark and lighter sides which is greater than its ever been as the side seperate further. This makes for an inconsistent record that while I found was bursting with ideas individually, each song played together almost tries to take from each other. It’ll be interesting to see where Amos goes from this record. Fans will find something to enjoy here but this could be the first record for a while where new fans will enter the foray.
Interesting, flawed, but still utterly memorising. Give it a few weeks and I’m sure you’ll love it.