This article originally appeared in The Skinny
In 2016, Tori Amos ventured through North Carolina’s Smoky Mountains in the hopes of reconnecting with the stories of her mother’s family. Unfortunately, two events halted her plans. Not only did the US election shake the country, but Amos suffered a personal tragedy when a stroke left her mother unable to speak.
It naturally follows that her fifteenth album Native Invader draws on events from her own life, examining personal issues as well as tensions across the globe. Division takes centre stage, and Amos often weaves captivating narratives around the theme. Whether it’s two people parting ways on the solo piano ballad Breakaway or frost-bitten opener Reindeer King’s lament that ‘your mind has been divided from your soul,’ her words on the matter are often evocative and poetic. Up the Creek is particularly potent, marrying frenetic melodies and bursts of urgent and intense orchestration with Amos’s declaration of needing to form a ‘militia of the mind’ against falsities.
Native Invader is at its best when it pushes the boundaries in this way, but Amos often falls into an all-too-familiar comfort zone. The languid mid-tempo tones are certainly pleasant and, on the likes of Wildwood, sometimes capture a sense of achingly beautiful melancholia. Still, you’re left longing for Amos’s social commentary to be laced with just a little more venom to truly conjure the state of upheaval in the world.