Choirgirl Songs

Tori Amos - from the choirgirl hotel
(Virgin Records)
3 stars (out of 5 stars)

By Tony Bonyata

Sounding much closer to rock's eclectic, and far too elusive, songstress Kate Bush than to the legions of whiny girls who populate the current 'female rock movement', 35-year old singer / songwriter / pianist Tori Amos has released a curious album of songs that sheds some light into the psyche of women through emotion, sensuality and mysteriousness.
On her latest, from the choirgirl hotel, Amos takes her piano-based art-rock that she's been honing over the course of seven years and three solo albums (Little Earthquakes, Under The Pink, and Boys For Pele) and mixes in some interesting elements that may surprise at least a few of her massive cult following. While the thought of techno and industrial musings blended with tranquilized hip-hop rhythms may not seem that new of an idea in today's rock, especially considering that everyone from Bowie to Bjork has recently dipped their toes in the techno pool, Amos sparingly adds these bits of electronica to her simple melodic complexities to create a seemingly new genre that fits somewhere in between Joni Mitchell and Nine Inch Nails.
While her trademark ethereal sound can still be found on "Spark", the first single from the album, "Northern Lad", the melancholy "Jackie's Strength" as well as the whiny warblings of "Pandora's Aquarium", it's the more modern direction her music takes that makes this album work. Songs such as "Raspberry Swirl", with a heart-pounding beat and neck-bending sonic guitar tones straight out of Adrian Belew's songbag, the electronic-infused slow groove of "iieee" (complete with an uncharacteristically heavy, yet welcome, metal interlude) as well as the bump-and-grind glam-rock rhythms of "She's Your Cocaine" help further separate comparisons between herself and earlier contemporary Kate Bush.
Amos' piano style (she's been playing since the age of three and by six she was the youngest student ever admitted to the prestigious Peabody Music Conservatory in Baltimore) is gracefully melodic, strong and straightforward. Her vocal style, on the other hand, runs the emotional gambit, from breathy, angelic whispers to devilish rantings, all the while sending out a sensual vibe that is one-hundred and ten percent female.
If Tori Amos continues to seek this sense of musical adventure in the future she may well rise above her cult status and emerge as the preeminent female rock artist of the decade.

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