With ten studio albums under her belt, Tori Amos is still somersaulting through role-play personas and soaring melodic narratives, hitting some blissful highs while mostly avoiding clunky filler. Abnormally Attracted to Sin begins with the clogged atmospherics of a slinky trip-hop memoir called “Give.” Synths punch in and out and vaporize under the weight of a clipped drum machine beat, while Amos’ piano plunks away dissonantly and distantly (seemingly from another room).
“Welcome to England” finds a sleepy-eyed girl trapped within a druggy semi-relationship. Her words remain unspoken as she takes in her beau’s passive-aggressive demands and a few too many illegal substances: “Go on, let the liquid take off what you’re on / You’ve been down before…” The track’s discarded New Wave guitars and extra sharp percussion feel like anachronistic bar music, while Amos’ vocal delivery twists the couple’s dialogue into alien rhythms, perhaps mimicking the mental state of our drunk and drugged protagonists, allowing words to flow like instruments and shed their linguistic values.
Baroque ditties, like the S&M romp “Strong Black Vine” and the campy “That Guy” take the album into unpredictable territories but eventual yield diminishing returns. Piano-driven tracks like “Ophelia” and “Fire to Your Plain” with sudden bursts of acoustic guitar and dollops of harmonic vocal layerings showcase Amos’ unique sensibilities. The simplest moments often allow her best attributes to shine through. The swirling lead guitars and powerchord blasts of “Police Me” and glam-rock crescendo of “Starling” are Amos at her best and most endearing. The retro production values and familiar instrumentations sound new again when that beatific, elastic voice finally kicks into high gear.
Favorite Track: “Police Me”
Reviewer Bio - Christopher j Ewing is a writer and filmmaker living in Los Angeles with a girl and a designer dog. He is in a band by himself, has a myspace account at www.myspace.com/wastedpotentialproduction and a production company at (www.wastedpotentialproductions.com) for freelance film, video and journalism work.