Scarlet's Walk [Bonus DVD]
Tori Amos took some time away from songwriting to recharge her creative batteries with the all-covers album Strange Little Girls, but she returns with another set of soulfully complex original musings on Scarlet's Walk. It's an album that spans both the psychic and sonic spectrum, setting jarring blacks and reds against soft-focus pastels, making for plenty of fascinating juxtapositions. Amos explains the album as an American travelogue, following the journey of Scarlet, who may be a woman or who may be the bloody trail of American history. Such are the shifting correspondences of the album. Longtime fans will embrace "Amber Waves" as trademark Tori, querulous and quixotic, her trembling vocals rising above a stately piano line that's itself buoyed by a stark, simple rhythm -- all the better to focus on the ambiguous tale of debauchery and reform. As ever, she's unblinking in her assessments of her own past life (the angst-riddled "Your Cloud") as well as those of past lovers (the alternately lilting and incisive "A Sorta Fairytale"). Some of the songs were apparently inspired by Amos's personal reaction to the September 11th terrorist attacks, a thread that comes across most clearly in the wan, tear-stained strains of "I Can't See New York." She's perfectly capable of taking the opposite tack, however, as evidenced by the seething "Don't Make Me Come to Vegas," an emotional doppelganger -- albeit on a less internalized level -- for Little Earthquakes's "Me and a Gun." At once direct and cryptic, these are the type of songs sure to inspire discussion -- and passion -- among Amos's ardent followers for some time.