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Tori Amos - Ocean to Ocean Music Album Reviews

Tori Amos - Ocean to Ocean Music Album Reviews
On her 16th album, begun early this year as the UK entered its third lockdown, the Cornwall-based singer-songwriter grapples with personal loss, the cruelty of the world, and the will to keep going.

For nearly three decades, Tori Amos has been one of pop’s most compelling personalities, combining a keen knowledge of musical composition with southern Gothic overtones, otherworldly poetics, and a sharp wit. On her 16th album, Ocean to Ocean, she continues to alchemize those qualities into an alloy like no other.

In interviews about Ocean to Ocean, Amos has said that she was inspired by the natural landscapes and dense mythology of Cornwall, the peninsular English county where she’s lived since 1999, as well as the loss of her mother, close observations of her late-twenties niece, and the lockdowns and chaos that have loomed so large over the past two years. The resulting album—which she began working on earlier this year, when England entered its third national lockdown—grapples with grief and the cruelty of the world, and how those things are felt both cosmically and personally.

Amos has long been celebrated for her cutting lyrics, and on Ocean to Ocean, the gravity of her subject matter means they leave an even deeper wound. “Metal Water Wood,” which Amos has said was one of the first tracks she wrote for the album, contains the extremely timely lament, “I know, dear/It has been a brutal year”; the song stomps in circles, its fractured chords echoing the “shattered dreams of mine” that have turned Amos’ life unfamiliar and unsettling. On the title track, over pianos and guitars that roil like storm clouds, Amos gazes despairingly upon the world and growls, “There are those who don’t give a goddamn/That we’re near mass extinction/There are those who never give a goddamn/For anything that they are breaking”: An indictment of all those who are ruining the planet, it’s a protest song delivered with the plainspoken candor of porch chats and phone calls. And “Birthday Baby,” the album’s closer, could be a minor-key rallying cry for all those who celebrate the anniversary of their arrival on Earth by toasting their very survival.

Loss is woven throughout the record, particularly the death of Amos’ mother. “Flowers Burn to Gold” is a spare, gorgeous eulogy in which Amos and her piano take center stage as a choir of backing vocalists occasionally swoops in to comfort her. On the sinewy “Speaking With Trees,” Amos speaks to her mother while a serpentine guitar winds around her: “I’ve been hiding your ashes under the tree house,” she sings, contemplating the unknowability of nature and the way it connects us all.

"Spies,” the album’s midpoint, is one of its highlights, pairing a straightforward ’90s alt-rock chug with fantastically vivid lyrics (“They may say they're on holiday/Grabbing a latte in a coquelicot beret”) and heaven-sent elements like icy strings and arpeggiated piano—as well as a baroque bridge, which breaks from the beat and ratchets up the surrealistic imagery. Its propulsive rhythm makes “Spies” too urgent to be a lullaby, but it is designed to calm: “Knowing this may help you to/Help you close your eyes/Get some shuteye,” she soothes at the song’s close, seemingly to herself as much as to her audience.

On “29 Years,” Amos addresses her legacy as an artist and as a woman, and how the process of figuring herself out in public has affected both sides of her. A plush electric piano and razor-wire guitars engage in a back-and-forth while Amos calls back to ancient myths, with a chorus of furies moaning, “How does this happen?” Then the song opens up, and Amos’ vista widens: “These tattered bits of me/I’ve been piecing/For 29 years,” she muses—still in search of “a most elusive truth,” but using all of her talents to bring herself and her listeners ever closer to it.

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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

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Tori Amos - Ocean to Ocean Music Album Reviews Tori Amos - Ocean to Ocean Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on Friday, December 10, 2021 Rating: 5

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