Singer/pianist Tori Amos’ 15th album, Native Invader is a mystery, like Amos herself.
The record is deep with hard-to-decipher lyrics, but who cares when it sounds so otherworldly and unique?
Amos, a dreamy rebel who shook off the confines of a would-be institutionalized music career, never plays it safe and that pays off on Native Invader.
A great player in the abstract, textural tradition, Amos has the singular distinction of being a piano playing prodigy who received a scholarship to the Peabody Conservatory at the age of five. She’s an educated natural, and the tutelage and discipline eventually chafed and Amos took it on the road.
In keeping with Amos’ textural style, Native Invader is all about mood. Her soprano voice is pure and interprets the clouds of chords she lays down on her keyboard.
With Broken Arrow and Cloud Riders, she takes her own dreamy luminescence and creates songs that act as suites. They move through meditative verses into thoughtful alt-country choruses that kick at the stalls. Her restraint and pacing gives the music dignity and drama.
The album was conceived during a trip through the Smoky Mountains to connect with some Carolina forbears.
Up the Creek is Amos’ mining some regional heritage. The song is part riverside revival and electronic riff gumbo’d up by her nimble keyboard skills and arrangement savvy. It’s an alternative take on Americana, showing that the form is wide open for interpretation.
The same is true for Amos’ music, skilled and serious, with its source elusive.
–Dean Gordon-Smith is a Vernon-based musician who reviews the latest music releases in his column, Street Sounds, every Friday.