Thursday, February 5, 2009

February 5: Tori Amos, "Little Earthquakes"

Artist: Tori Amos
Album: Little Earthquakes
Year: 1992
Label: Atlantic

Though the "girl and piano" format had been done countless times before, when Myra Ellen Amos (there's a little music nerd trivia) slid onto the bench, the genre was forever changed. Tori Amos' solo debut, Little Earthquakes, is beautifully unsettling as it combines masterfully melodic piano playing with intense and deeply intimate lyrics.

Musically, Little Earthquakes keeps to a very simple formula of simply letting Tori and her piano take center stage and stay there. There are string arrangements and occasional guitar work, but Tori and her piano remain the focus (as they should) throughout the hour long record. From light, whimsical ditties, to pounding, aggressive opuses, Amos pushes her piano to its limits in every way possible.

Aside from her piano work, Tori Amos is notorious for her blunt, sometimes hauntingly realistic lyrics. Little Earthquakes set a very high standard for this honesty as Tori addresses issues from questions of her own self worth to issues with her parents. Tori's vocals soar from the lowest tones to glass-shattering screams, showing that her talents have no boundaries. Her vocal delivery is also notable in that she does not use a windscreen in the studio. Her breathing in and out is heard quite clearly and it has become a part of her signature sound.

For anyone who knows anything about Tori Amos, Little Earthquakes contains the song "Me And A Gun;" one of the most significant songs of the past decades. The song chillingly recounts the evening that Tori was raped by a bar patron she gave a ride home to after a show she played when she was 21. The song runs just under three and a half minutes and the impact, even after repeated listenings, is truly beyond words. Many scholars believe that the release of "Me And A Gun" helped to bring the issue of rape to the forefront of society and the success of the song enabled Tori to found RAINN, an organization to fight and advocate for victims of rape, incest, and other sexual crimes.

Tori Amos released her debut solo record in a time when music was exploding into new genres in every possible direction. With Little Earthquakes, she showed that she was far more than just another girl sitting behind a piano singing. Tori's adept piano expertise, combined with her staggeringly honest lyrics demanded all to take heed. Little Earthquakes is still as relevant and powerful as it was when it was first released and is a necessary listen for all who appreciate pure, candid, sincere music.

Standout tracks: "Silent All These Years," "Leather," and "Me And A Gun."

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