Midwinter Graces: Invader Edition
Not a stranger to festive music, Tori Amos returns with an EP that is a mixture of Christmas themed music that doesn’t always feel like its actually talking about Christmas at all. The EP has lyrical nods to the festive season but tonally, this feels like a mixture of Scarlets Walk and Native Invader.
The title track opens the EP beautifully with melodic nods of Mary and a couple of carols, ‘Christmastide’ is the closest the EP gets to festive music. It wouldn’t sound out of place on Midwinter Graces with its warm piano and dual vocal performance. A characteristic of the EP as a whole is that Tori has dual tracked her vocals in both a low and a high register, often sounding like she is having two trains of thought. ‘Circle of Seasons’ is likely to be the track many will rave about most. Feeling like a stablemate of the stunning ‘Reindeer King’ and ‘Barons of Suburbia’ at the same time, the off-kilter chorus and deep piano riffs show a depth of expression that is a welcome return to Tori’s sound. Moving away from tons of synths and back to a more organic piano, bass, guitar and drums set up really lets these songs shine – with ‘Circle of Seasons’ really benefitting from this most.
‘Holly’ is possibly my favourite of the EP though. It has a rolling, sultry rhythm to it and the chorus riff is a killer one. It also showcases the rhythmic section from Matt Chamberlain. His return to playing percussion on Tori Amos records uplifts the whole experience from what felt like the weakest link from Native Invader. All these songs, including the euphoric and uplifting message of hope that is ‘Better Angels’ (which sounds like it was from a cleaned-up American Doll Posse session) have a flow to them and percussive flourishes that elevate each track above its melody. It may sound strange to say it about a predominantly piano-based singer/songwriter release but the drums make the EP sparkle.
I get the impression that Christmastide is Tori Amos sending a message of hope, reflection and resilience masked in some Christmas metaphors. I also feel like there was probably an alternative EP ready to rage in dignity if the US election was different. A lovely addition to her gigantic catalogue, I won’t personally associate this release with Christmas at all. Instead, I’ll use them as page-turners to cleanse my emotional palette and then move on with life.
Recommended track: Circle of Seasons
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