I was introduced to Tori Amos by my sister; she listened to loads of great music which became absolutely seminal for me. Mostly it was a lot of powerhouse female singer-songwriters – the likes of Tori Amos and, Jewel and later bands like Hole, and The Cranberries. Little Earthquakes was the artist’s debut and an absolute triumph in my opinion, and that record in particular was one we would sing along to at the top of our lungs in her room on family holidays, getting out every bit of emotion needed during the ups and down of growing up.
I love that you’re into full drama within 3 seconds of the first song Crucify – and after about a minute it’s pretty clear the combo of melodic piano, stark drums, and clever winding melodies sit devastatingly with the utterly confessional lyrics. It’s a mix of poignant vignettes and acerbic one-liners. Barbs like ‘Just what God needs – one more victim.. and later ‘got enough guilt to start my own religion’ – are sprinkled throughout and this album contains some of my absolute favourite songwriting lyrics.
Silent All These Years is the third track in and possibly my favourite on the record – that first line ‘Excuse me but can I be you for a while’ hit me so hard as a teenager and the song is barely a whisper but has such gravitas. Precious Things is the driving song for me – from the mad breathy intro.. I just feel like you’re immediately caught up in the excitement – it’s just such a dark mood – and again led by lyrics set to make you kind of uncomfortable but utterly engaged with the songs.
A favourite line in that song is ‘So you can make me cum that doesn’t make you Jesus’ – Ha! Again as a teenager this was just a complete blaster of a line to hear. I sung this song at a school function in front of 4000 people and nearly laughed as I sang it wondering if they could make out what I was singing at them. :-)
Writing and listening now I realise there were a actually a couple of songs I usually used to skip – Happy Phantom, and Leather – but somehow that didn’t ever detract from the brilliance of the whole. I think those two struck me as extra-theatrical and less cutting – or I just identified less with them maybe.
Mother is another song that blew me away and that I used to sing in school music competitions – haha they must have thought I was taking the piss when everyone else was singing Brahms but I just loved singing acapella and a lot of Tori’s songs suit that – they’re so full of melodic intrigue and tangible lyrics. Clearly demonstrated by the acapella song on the album; Me and a Gun – a devastatingly raw account of rape, which again, and especially as a teenager – completely stopped me in my tracks.
It’s so interesting to listen to this record after 10 years of working in music and studying jazz …t’s kind of theatrical pop but with all these undertones coming through, from classical to grunge. And I think it sound like she’s always having fun with her voice, pushing it to it’s extremes – using weird turns of melody and vocal techniques; I adore the vocal production which is ever changing and the harmonies that flit in and out are so subtle but effective.
I just love it. It’s been a constant companion to me over the years and I think her work has had a big effect on the kind of music that I make, and want to make. If somehow you’ve missed it, and especially if you need to blow off some emotional steam – I highly recommend listening. Thanks!
Eliza Shaddad‘s wonderful new album The Woman You Want is out on July 16.