Tori Amos returned back to her more piano based roots for her latest album Unrepentant Geraldines in 2014 after a foray off in the world of Orchestra. In many ways, it feels like the most stripped back and grass-roots album she has made in many years. It borrows from previous albums’ cues but has a natural sound of its own.
“America” funnily enough feels a little like Scarlet’s Walk with some lovely interplay between acoustic and electric guitar, as well as the piano. Tori has a knack for pulling a mysterious hook from nowhere and the main melody is beautiful like a lullaby that has a sadness to it. “Troubles Lament” takes a Southern turn and is stylistically quite left field for Amos. It’s full of little embellishments and quirks that aren’t apparent on the first listen but come out later down the line. Having heard the track live, it doesn’t pack the angry punch the piano solo version does but this has far more texture and the lyrics has trouble as a character which is a great thought. “Wild Way” is a simple piano and vocal number with minimal anything else. Its lyrics tell of a woman whom seems to get stick for being as wild now as she was years ago – I wonder how biographical that track is.
“Wedding Day” has a beautiful melody to it with a Mellotron playing against the piano and acoustic guitar. It almost feels like the pace quickens throughout as the Wedding day approaches but it really doesn’t – it’s just you are getting into the song! The songs unfurling makes a great intro to the mourning of “Weatherman”. The visual and emotional pull of this track coupled with the gentle piano and voice arrangement is stunning and floors me every listen. It is something that sits firmly at the top of Tori’s game. It’s funny because there’s little needed to make the track – just a piano and a girl – yet “16 Shades of Blue” is equally fantastic for being more of a sonic story. The actual melody isn’t mind-blowing but the way the lyrics are literally taken into sound with explosions, kazoos, little string twinkles and clock tick tocks. It’s like an audio book Tori style.
“Maids of Elfen-Mere” has a fairytale quality to it with the high piano notes and doubled up voices. I can literally picture forest folk at a well – it’s got that kind of witchy twang to it. “Promise” is a great duet between Tori and her daughter Tash as they sing promises to each other in a bluesy organ heavy track. Tash’s voice is syrupy and she is given the lead in many ways to shine – she could have a good career ahead of her if she chooses. Tori’s piano chops are very much on display here too. We then take a dive from Beekeeper land to Pink world with “Giants Rolling Pin” which on the surface is a cute, kids track with lots of fun instrumentation. However underneath lays a track with lyrics that poke fun at Government security and string pulling – it fits perfectly with The Wrong Band and so on.
“Selkie” is a beautiful ballad of Scottish heritage which lets Tori breathe around a gentle melody. It’s when she doesn’t need to keep in perfect 4/4 time signature she can emphasis every drop of emotion out of the track and Selkie is one of those tracks where it’s squeezed to perfection. The title track follows but it feels like two separate tracks pushed together. The first being a church rock style track which fast beat in places, which is the only time on this album it does, and plenty of piano riffing and multiple vocal tracks. The second is a revolving piano and vocal piece about a vicars wife. Thematically, it works, although it feels disjointed on first listen. “Oysters” is my favourite track on the album though. A flowing piano and vocal odyssey – it is cute, emotive and absolutely haunting at the same. The high register and multiple voice tracks gives the piece a ghostly eerie flavour – it’s mesmerizing.
“Rose Dover” is a fascinating track for it tackles the way children are taught to lose their imagination as they grow older. It twists from mood to mood – one part dramatic and daunting, one part childlike and one part rushing and racing. It’s a mix that really works though and makes you think. The album closes with the simple and classic ballad of “Invisible Boy” – one that took me a few listens to really harness. It takes cues from classic cinema theme songs and has a structure that makes it sound perfect as a sobbing female lead song in a musical. Three bonus tracks are available depending on where you are buying from. “Dixie” is a winter warmer where you can literally hear the smile in Tori’s voice as she talks about going shopping with her mum. “Forest of Glass” is a brooding magical number that reminds me so much of “Garlands” its unreal. “White Telephone To God” is like a Pele b-side with gusto, fun, tongue in cheek humour about stuffing her face with all her favourite foods.
It’s a real tour de force. “Unrepentant Geraldines” is like taking her first two albums and The Beekeeper and seeing where collectively that timeline would have taken her next in a further decade. There’s a clarity in most of the album that see’s no faffing, no extras and no bloating. She has done it yet again – one of the most reliable woman in music continues to wow. Piano rules.