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Album review: Tori Amos' 'Night of Hunters'

September 19, 2011 |  4:40 pm

Tori Amos
Tori Amos’ critics have often painted her as an ethereal fairy goddess divorced from reality, heir to Kate Bush’s throne of fantasy. Her first two albums, however, released in the ’90s, delved into subjects such as rape, incest, childhood violence and righteous anger. If anything, her music has been grounded in a hard reality, despite some of the mystic characters she invokes.

Using a technique taken from classical music, Amos has created a cycle of repeating musical themes with her latest solo work, “Night of Hunters,” a beautiful kaleidoscope of remembering and letting go. Tori fans will be delighted to find that “Hunters” marks the return of Amos’ piano, which has taken a back seat to the electronically produced fanciness she’s favored in the recent past. Here her voice is a crystal bell with only the ivory guiding her. Tori’s preteen daughter Natashya Hawley, her voice a rich earthy tone that vacillates between Sia-esque beauty and childlike curiosity, joins her mother for duets on four tracks, most notably on the wonderful “Job’s Coffin,” their vocals playing off of each other like two calling birds.

“Hunters” stands as Amos’ most serious exploration of memory and lost love, so it’s ironic that it’s also the album that treads closest to full-on Bush-style fantasy. All in the course of one snowy night, she encounters a fox, travels through a magical forest and converses with a spirit named Annabelle. This narrative tactic appears to be an attempt to expose her failed relationships as just that: an unattainable fairy tale.

Questions about the future no longer seem to be Amos’ main concern; rather, she’s consumed with looking back. Not only is she an artist maturing and growing with her music, but in great Amos fashion, she is making sense of her past in a wholly original, intelligent way. And at this stage of her career, she’s earned the right to a few spirit guides.

—Nikki Darling

 

Tori Amos
“Night of Hunters”
Deutsche Grammophon
Three stars (out of four)

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