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Tori Amos—Abnormally Attracted to Sin

Release info:

2009—Universal Republic—B0012901-10



Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Tori Amos—vocals, Bösendorfer piano, synths, Rhodes, organ

Guest artists:

Matt Chamberlain—loops, drums, percussion
Jon Evans—bass
Mac Aladdin—acoutic guitars, electric guitars, 12-string, mandolins
John Phillip Shenale—arrangement (3, 15), B3 organ & synths (3, 15), strings arrangements and conducting (6, 10)
Strings (6, 10):
     Ed Bale, Matthew Elston, Fiona McNaught, Kate Robinson—violins
Holly Butler, James Hogg—viola
Rosemary Banks, Caroline Dale—cello

Produced by:

Tori Amos


Ye gods, why is there not more discussion and/or raving about this album? It's the best thing she's released in years.
     Maybe people aren't parsing this correctly. Maybe they're looking for another Little Earthquakes or Boys for Pele or Scarlet's Walkk or (for some reason) The Beekeeper. This is nothing of the sort. It isn't even another from the choirgirl hotel, which was my first reaction.
     No, this is Tori's noir album. Listening to this before 10 p.m. is missing the point. It's obvious from the very first song, "Give," which could almost be Dummy-era Portishead. There's "Strong Black Vine," which is basically "Body and Soul" with a few guitars swapped out for strings, and the heartbreaking "Curtain Call," and "That Guy," which might as well be performed on a bare stage in a forgotten nightclub in the heart of a city you won't remember the next day. The stage metaphors aren't an accident.
     And then there are the surprises. There are the guitars that come in halfway through "Abnormally Attracted to Sin," turning what used to be simply a slow-burn noiry song—an amazing one, but not much on stylistic variation—into something with propulsion and heft. It's going somewhere. You care where it's going. You care if it reaches the next step up the scale. You care how the backing vocals swoop around each other, and you care how it resolves. Music should make you care.
     We've got another contender for second-best of the year, folks.
     These are very brief impressions, very unformed, some of which might change in a few days. But let's have at it: Overall: If I had to describe it in a few words, I'd say it's like a darker from the choirgirl hotel, and then a few other songs. Which falls squarely into my kind of music. (lotterose @ gmail . com)

I wasn't a fan of American Doll Posse (it just seemed too much in the 1970s/1980s-rock vein which I didn't like much the first time it came around) and I grew to *hate* The Beekeeper (seemed too sweet and bland to me), but the more I listen to this the more I like it. Much to my surprise. Maybe I'm not done with Tori after all. It's the first album of hers I've enjoyed at all since Scarlet's Walk. (Neile)

a nice rebound after the last albums were a bit "meh"to me. (

Yes, an odd choice of initial songs to sneak out ('Welcome to England', '500 miles', 'Fire to your plain', later 'Maybe California'). Maybe Tori thinks 'A sorta fairytale' was a hit because it was poppy, rather than because it was *good* and poppy.
     Now that I've lived with some songs for a couple weeks, I'll ramble a bit. The album Abnormally attracted to sin is bloated like American Doll Posse. Tori has said in recent interviews that she now puts tracks on albums that would previously have been b-sides. There are a couple Tori-worthy highs, a number of catchy songs, some pleasant enough songs, some dregs, and overall few I'll be listening to in several months (unlike her brilliant first four albums and Scarlet's Walk, which I'll never fully put aside).
     More electronic than the rocking Doll Posse. Reminds me of Venus, especially 'Suede'. Will be interesting on headphones; some songs might shine more that way. Some complex arrangements, though more in the way of 'mood pieces with lots of interesting noises' rather than complex melodies or structures.

     Lite pop:

  • 'Welcome to England'—I don't think it's bad; chorus works like 'Past the mission's' with the beat slowing down, sad, soaring a bit
  • 'Fire to your plain' and '500 miles'—simple pop, catchy, a bit sickly, Beekeeper-ish
  • 'Not dying today'—verses with beat like 'Dolphin song'; unusually dumb lyrics, not in a weird Tori-ish Pele way, but Stoopid. Seems to be many people's least favorite song
  • 'Fast horse'—Scarlet-ish (yey!) with American accent and subject matter ("your momma ain't New York she's pure Tennessee", Indian smoke stuff); so trashy to mention maseratis! (first a sab, now 'sat-nav to hell'...)
Atmospheric electronics (and guitars, often bad):
  • 'Give'—dark, vampiric
  • 'Flavor'—gentler, prettier
  • 'Curtain Call'—album highlight, gorgeous sad ballad about ageing musician
  • 'Abnormally attracted to sin'—slower, acoustic guitars, echoes, goes on a bit
  • 'Starling'—lovely with baroque hints, faint military marching drums, and then a jarring muted stompy glitter-rock bridge that perhaps belongs somewhere else, but maybe it'll fit in after more listens
  • 'Lady in blue'—slow ballad, boring to me so far but many people like it
Murky rock with bad '70s rock guitars by husband:
  • 'Strong black vine'—chorus brings back the anemic Beekeeper funk; bit of James Bond-ish keyboards; reminds me of 'She's your cocaine' and 'Teenage hustling', a bit tiring and samey
  • 'Police me'—ick! it isn't boring, but i don't think the sounds add up to anything attractive. Will keep listening and see
Genre pieces:
  • 'Maybe California'—Beatlesque and syrupy strings, pretty, too predictable and sweet for me in most moods
  • 'That guy'—show tune, voice sounds lovely, also a bit '70s-strings-'Gold-Dust'-ish
  • 'Mary Jane'—catchy silly froth about marijuana, like 'graveyard', 'mr zebra' but lesser; total b-side material
Piano song:
  • 'Ophelia—It's kinda lovely in a 'Scarlet's hidden treasures' way, but it's like cliché Tori, people who have seen a couple videos and read a weird interview would think "hasn't she already written this?"
Good enough to be on an album, according to me: 'Curtain Call', 'Fast horse', 'Give', 'Flavor', 'Welcome to England' (the album needs some pop songs).

Good enough, but wish they were edited or arranged a bit differently: 'Starling', 'Ophelia', 'Abnormally attracted to sin'
     The rest, in descending order, many of which I have enjoyed listening to, but they aren't good compared to Tori at her peak: 'Lady in blue', 'That guy', 'Fire to your plain', 'Maybe California', '500 miles', 'Mary Jane', 'Not dying today', 'Police me', 'Strong black vine'.
     There are 5 that I classify as lite poppy Beekeeperish (or poppy Doll Posse, to be honest) so there are many left if you ditch them! I like most of the pop songs and they help the album with pacing, but only 'Welcome to England' is OK-for-Tori. Maybe solo versions will help; solo' England' has been praised. I prefer 'Bouncing off clouds', 'Beauty of speed' (esp live) and 'Almost Rosey' better than most of these.
     Lots of fans who didn't like American Doll Posse are praising this album, but that just seems weird to me. It's much easier to like something after disappointment, even if the qualities you like were present in the disappointing album.
     But electronics and guitars are things I can get behind. I *liked* 'Teenage Hustling'. I like 'Body and Soul'. I liked American Doll Posse because it was just a complete 180 from Beekeeper.
     Of the noisier numbers, 'Strong black vine' and 'Police me' aren't as melodic as 'Body and soul', which I also like lots. They make me think of how complex and magical 'Hotel' was :)
     The atmospheric electronic-y stuff ('Give', 'Flavor', 'Starling', 'Abnormally attracted to sin', maybe 'Curtain Call'...) aren't much like American Doll Posse to me. I like all these, but their melodic structures are quite long and unvarying. If they existed in physical space, they'd be long flat rugs with intricate patterns (all the noises). You walk and walk, admiring the patterns at your feet, wondering if that bit was the chorus, feeling like the song is longer than it is, and then you trip over a big fold in the rug where an out-of-place bridge is. This is why the lesser pop songs are necessary on the album—they have really identifiable pop structures and energy and pull you along.
     Hell yes, listen to it! Anyone who enjoyed
American Doll Posse will enjoy bits of this. It depends on whether one can bother, since no one can enjoy the entire thing. Creating your own tight album out of "here's 17 songs wot I recorded" isn't worth the time to some people, but is to me.
     I'm one of those dopey people who has given enough time to Beekeeper to rustle around and discover songs to enjoy ('Marys', 'Beekeeper', 'Barons', 'Parasol'). Tori said some interesting stuff in recent interviews about Beekeeper being recorded in a few takes, how it's a 'live b-sides' album. Odd that it is polish and niceness that many of us dislike in it, as opposed to rawness and experimentation!
     Sin doesn't rock as much as American Doll Posse, but hopefully you can find enough enjoyment among the non-poppy tracks. (

I've been enjoying Abnormally Attracted to Sin a fair amount, but it'll be interesting to see if it stands the test of time for me; most of Tori's albums after Under the Pink haven't, with the exception of Scarlet's Walk. The others I'll pull out from time to time, and (mostly) enjoy...but I don't still get the raw thrill from them that I do from Little Earthquakes or Under the Pink. (

This album features styles that Tori has explored during her whole career..we've got emotional piano ballads, pop songs, some lite-electronica, rock'n'roll, ethereal.. there's shades of all of her albums on display here. I think what's most satisfying about the album is the way it feels cohesive, even though there's a lot of different genres/styles throughout. It all seems to flow together very naturally. And let's not forget Matt Chamberlain and Jon Evans, who just work SO well with Tori. All of the musicians on the album work together wonderfully.. the music is beautiful, and the songs are melodic and catchy. Lyrically—I think this may be one of Tori's strongest albums. It doesn't strike me as terribly *personal*, but she's exploring themes of abuse, sexuality (being empowered by sexuality, being used sexually, and suppressing desires..), suicide, hopelessness, regret—lots of DARK material.. It's nice to see her writing songs that are poetic and lyrical, but not so cryptic you don't know what they're about.
     I am enamored by this album. I think there's much to savor within its 17 tracks, both musically and lyrically. I'm discouraged to read such negative feedback from folks here on ecto. I hope people will give the album a chance.. but if not, I'll proudly sing its praises all by myself. (

Well, I for one think it's boring. Not as much as Beekeeper, perhaps, but an eyelid dropper nonetheless. Of course, I'm one of those types who thinks American Doll Posse is one of her best albums, so your mileage may vary. (

I've been enjoying Abnormally Attracted to Sin a fair amount, but it'll be interesting to see if it stands the test of time for me; most of Tori's albums after Under the Pink haven't, with the exception of Scarlet's Walk. The others I'll pull out from time to time, and (mostly) enjoy...but I don't still get the raw thrill from them that I do from Little Earthquakes or Under the Pink. (

i am just fine with Abnormally Attracted to Sin as an album. i will confess, there's not a single Tori album that i listen to all the way through. it's all playlists for me, Tori-wise, and the new album added several songs to the list of keepers. several good songs is better than not, the way i see it. (

i've figured out how to enjoy Abnormally Attracted to Sin—the key for me is to play it LOUD. like REALLY loud. i was listening to it again in the car this morning and cranked the volume up to 35 (normally if my wife is in the car, i listen on about 8, and if it is just me, it is usually on 20)...I am now convinced that it is a really solid album (i still don't like "Mary Jane") but tracks that just were Meh at normal volume really came alive when played significantly louder.
      Am I nuts? give it a try... (

Tori Amos' other recordings:

The main Tori Amos page

Thanks to JoAnn Whetsell for work on this entry.

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