Tori Amos – Midwinter Graces

Holy shit, Tori remembered that she can play the harpsichord. Who ever would have thought that Amos’ best album in years would be her recently released holiday album, Midwinter Graces? (I decline to say Christmas for Tori’s sake, all those years of unraveling Christianity shouldn’t be wasted.)

This album is really downright gorgeous. At first listen, I have to say that I was skeptical, with the over-production and Auto Tune catastrophes of her last few albums, but really, it’s quite good. I mean, for the mass media. I personally kind of enjoyed Abnormally Attracted to Sin. This might be because I’m abnormally attracted to Tori Amos.

While not Christian per se…there’s nothing that could be misconstrued as offensive, either. When an already established artist releases a holiday album, it can go either way…will they keep the integrity of their music through the holidays or will they come off sounding alien and evangelistic? Tori certainly keeps her integrity. This album focuses more on the changing of the seasons and holiday spirit rather than religious or historical events.

While it does borrow from some traditional carols, Amos takes them in stride and often mixes them together for a better effect as seen in tracks like the opening, “What Child, Nowell”, a mash up of the Christmas classics “What Child Is This?” and “The First Noel”. It’s the comfort of the known, but at the same time, something completely different. At the same time, there’s tracks like “Pink and Glitter”, a swing-y, big band number with just a touch of holiday cheer.

“Winter’s Carol” is the true gem of this album. A Tori original, the opening piano reminds me of seeing her live and all the things that woman can do to a piano. Dear god, the things that woman can do to a piano. Tori sounds more like Tori than she has in years…incredibly powerful vocals, impeccable piano, and deliciously poetic lyrics are just…Tori. That’s just kinda what she does.

This album greatly reduces the amount of shameful guilt instilled by the majority of Christmas albums. It’s full of light and joy and family. Amos even brought in her own daughter, Natasha, and her niece Kelsey, but only for short moments. Instead of feeling like it’s just another parent parading their kid around in a Santa hat for the world to see, it’s really pretty cute.

The only real let down on this album is “Harps of Gold”, a clunky, over-produced track that I’m pretty sure was meant for the holiday season on adult lite-rock radio. Other than that, this is an utterly unexpected and delightful holiday album. This album has put her in the ranks of Over the Rhine and Lorena KcKennitt as far as magical holiday albums go. A!

Tori Amos’ Site


Christmas, Jools Holland, Iris Murdoch, and other unrelated things…

Happy belated Turkey Day everyone!

This may be the most discombobulated post ever.
It’s been CRAZY busy around here, with the holidays in full swing and all. I swear, the older I get, the more I hate Christmas. Can’t a girl just let out some inner Grinch!? Damn!

Anyway…Jools Holland owns my life. Seriously. This is a recent discovery and so far I’ve seen approximately one bajillion bands who I already love and discovered a few new ones as well. Just in the few episodes watched, I’ve seen Thom Yorke groove right the fuck out to Mary J. Blige, decided that Jamiroquai is now a dirty old man, and discovered that Cat Power is indeed better live than she is on recordings. Her cover of “New York New York” is fucking amazing.

Last night, after Jools (with JAMIROQUAI!), Ovation played Iris, the film portrayal of Iris Murdoch’s life, her writing, her battle with Alzheimer’s, and ultimately, her death. It’s a fantastic movie. And it has Judy Dench in it, who I love.

Check it out sometime.

Random thought of the day: Why are there so many songs about sweaters? Cake, the infamous Weezer, every goddamn Jack’s Mannequin song…? I love sweaters and all, but are they really that musically inspiring? Perhaps it’s the dramas of winter and what they represent. What makes you so important, sweater!?

Riding public transportation will do things like this to you.

Well, stay tuned folks. In the next few weeks there will be a review of Tori Amos‘ Midwinter’s Graces as well as an interview with Mikey Shanley, beach bum, DJ, and very good friend.

My Top 10 Favorite Albums of All Time

So, I was listening to a particular album on this list yesterday and realized that it’s one of those albums that never gets old. So, in homage, here are my top favorite albums of all time. Now that it’s done, it’s weird how difficult this post became. I have a lot of favorite albums in a lot of favorite genres, so I tried to keep it simple. Most of these albums are ones that I heard that drastically changed my views on music and introduced me to that certain genre. I’ll always be thankful for that, so here are those albums.

Brand New - Your Favorite WeaponBrand New – Your Favorite Weapon
I know…I am a ridiculous, hopeless emo kid. This album is seriously awesome though. I believe I’ve said before, “It remains the sound track to summer teenage love and broken hearts.” Jesse Lacey’s vocals and awkward yet relevant, angsty lyrics get me every time. I really do hope that the next boy that you kiss has something terribly contagious on his lips. At least I did when I was eighteen. A lot of the lyrics and themes of this album are juvenile and downright silly, but it comes off far more endearing than annoying. And hell, haven’t we all been there before? The heart-on-the-sleeve trick really works for these guys, and this album. It makes me all warm on the insides when I hear it.

EvercleEverclear - So Much For the Afterglowar – So Much for the Afterglow
Oh 90’s alternative rock, how I love thee. And this album truly epitomizes it. This power-pop, radio ready album still gets played from time to time, despite being over a decade old. Once again, the lyrics are so poignant and catchy on this album. For any kid, holed up in their bedroom, listening to this album and dreaming of far away places, Art Alexakis is just so right. Everything is perfect in that fucked up way.

Green Day - DookieGreen Day – Dookie
This was the very first CD that I ever bought with my own money. I went down to Sun Electronics (remember them!?) with my brother, and he helped me make my first music purchase. I still throw on this album from time to time just for shits and giggles. It’s so funny to see what Green Day has become and the situations that lead them there. This was before the eyeliner and glitter, before the arena shows and thousands of screaming fans. Before they made that song that’s played at every graduation or talked about boulevards and broken dreams. This was pure, unadulterated Green Day.

Less Than Jake - Hello RockviewLess Than Jake – Hello Rockview
This album makes me get all nostalgic just thinking about it. So many times I wanted to take the west bound signs and just leave town. This is the soundtrack to running away, to escapism and beginning a new life, even it it’s right where you are. This is an album of growing up, decision making, and yet a drunken, punk rock mentality all at the same time. It’s also another one of those albums that I simply adore Every. Single. Track. It was also one of the first albums that got me into the punk/ska scene and it really peaked my interest, which lead to me diving headfirst into that scene for a few years. Sometimes it’s amazing how you can look at times of your life and the music that you were listening to and just be like, “Ah, that makes sense”. This is one of those albums.

Morcheeba - Big CalmMorcheeba – Big Calm
This album is what made me love trip-hop, and Skye Edwards. It is the epitome of all that is trip-hop, even if they’re old, dirty men. It seamlessly blends electronic music with the lush female vocals of Edwards. It spurned a great love for trip-hop for me, which has only grown since then. It an endless sea of ambient beats and I love it. It’s funny, this is probably one of the very few albums that compromise this list that I don’t have some silly memory to, yet it still make it on here. Props to Morcheeba.

Neutral Milk Hotel - In the Aeroplane Over the SeaNeutral Milk Hotel – In the Aeroplane Over the Sea
Thank you Jim Platania, wherever you are, for introducing me to these guys in high school art class. They opened my eyes to what is now known to my friends as “Amanda’s Weird Hippie Music“. They spurned a love for odd, experimental indie…rock? Is that what you would call it? They veered me the way of Modest Mouse and The Decemberists. They gave me a whole new genre to explore, and that’s always a good thing. This album reminds me of the ocean and hallucinogens. Also, always a good thing. And this video is just fucking hysterical. Thanks YouTube.

Nine Inch Nails - Pretty Hate MachineNine Inch Nails – Pretty Hate Machine
Any time you see Nine Inch Nails on a list like this, it’s always Downward Spiral. Yes, that was a magnificent album, as well, but I’ll always have a soft spot for Pretty Hate Machine. Recorded almost entirely by Trent Reznor, it’s a rip-off of so many other things yet almost something entirely new. I have to admit that Nine Inch Nails has lost their luster for me. I got out of that stage somewhere briefly after the “Perfect Drug” days, but oh, how I yearn for ’89 Trent Reznor with the dreads and the leather and all that baby powder. And Cheerios and enemas. This album was another one to introduce me to a whole new genre of music. After this I dived headfirst into this goth subculture…which honestly kind of sucks when you’re 12. There’s really not a lot of goth kids to share your eyeliner or black clothes with. Meh, perhaps I was just a revolutionary.

Soul CoughingSoul Coughing – Ruby Vroom
Who needs heroin when you have this album? It just kinda does it for you. I wonder if Mike Doughty ever knew that would be said? This was the first Soul Coughing album I heard and its lead to my incredible fascination with Mike Doughty and all that he does. They were just plain weird, experimental, trippy guys. They were doing something totally unheard of the in the 90’s. They weren’t grunge, thank god. They were such and eclectic mix of fantastic musicians doing something out of the ordinary. And you know, they’re the only ones that I can classify in a category of their own. They didn’t turn me on to anything, they didn’t alter my perception of music. They just were. And I loved them for it.

Sublime - 40 Oz. to FreedomSublime – 40 Oz. to Freedom
Yes, I started smoking a lot of pot around that time. This album still does it for me every time, though. Especially, after a long hard Pittsburgh winter, when the thermostat hits 40, I put on this album in celebration of summer. In celebration of being able to hang out outside and be in the sunshine. In celebration of no more pollution ridden snow lining the sidewalks and making the bottom of my pants gross. This was another one that didn’t turn me on to anything. It just was, and is, a fantastic album.

Tori Amos - Boys for PeleTori Amos – Boys for Pele
This album was the first to alert me to the driving, vocal force that is Tori Amos. This also started a life-long love affair with female vocalists. Oh that piano. I never knew that a piano could do that! Or that a voice so large could come from someone so tiny! Many years, albums, and shows later, I still love me some Tori. She’s just such a genuine artist. She goes some weird fucking places in her music sometimes, but then you just come to realize that that’s Tori. You can’t expect any different.

As you can see, a lot of these albums are older, and that’s a great thing. Perhaps in a few years, I can do another one of these with more albums that have withstood time and still haunt my music collection from now. Who knows!?

Tori Amos Two-Fer! Abnormally Attracted to Sin and Y Kant Tori Read

Tori Amos - Abnormally Attracted to SinHoly shit do I love Tori Amos’ new album, Abnormally Attracted to Sin. Tori’s got her groove back, hardcore! I do have to admit that I was less than pleased with the last few albums. I mean, they were good, just not up to Tori standards. I think she was getting back into the swing of things with American Doll Posse, but this album takes the cake.

Tori’s 10th studio album brings her to…trip hop? Holy shit, I love this album. If it wasn’t for her distinct vocals, I would mistake this album for Portishead. (This album is definitely better than Third BTW.) Perhaps it was the jump from Epic to Universal Republic that allowed this new, electronically inspired Tori. Well, they did give her full artistic independence, so I’m sure it didn’t hurt!

It is said that Tori released The Piano as sort of a last round-up of her works before moving in an entirely new direction, but this record definitely has the ghosts of albums past. “Strong Black Wine” could just have easily been on Little Earthquakes, while “Curtain Call” could have been on To Venus and Back. It’s like Little Earthquakes, From the Choirgirl Hotel, and To Venus and Back had a little vinyl baby, but made only with the greatest parts of those albums. And I’m not really that big a fan of To Venus and Back.

This album finds Tori’s already amazing voice harmonized with symphonies of violins as well as curious, ambient, electronic noise. In two words: trip-hop goodness!

She does have a few throw backs to the olden days, intoning songs like, “Maybe California”, a whole new perspective from Tori on motherhood, done in the classic vocal style that Tori does so well.

All in all, this album is fucking fantastic! Hooray for Tori! A!

Y Kant Tori Read

While shopping for Abnormally Attracted to Sin, I came across Y Kant Tori Read! Yes, I finally found it! This album makes me smile. It’s amazing that Tori has had this musical path carved out for herself for over two decades! Granted, most songs sound straight from the final scene in a cheesy 80’s teen flick, but that’s how it was supposed to sound back then!

I don’t understand why this album was so poorly received. Hot chick, big hair,  killer synth…the epitome of great 80’s music! There’s even a song about PIRATES!!!! Everyone should have a song about pirates!

I love the dirty, little, religiously rebellious Tori of those days. Twenty-one years old, playing piano in smoky little bars, full of piss and vinegar. It’s amazing to see how far she’s come since 1985.

If you can find it, I highly recommend this album. And it’s kind of a necessity for any long-time Tori fans. This album also gets an A!

Tori Amos’ Site