Tori Amos, "Tales of a Librarian"
Available at All That Jazz
If you don't already know Tori Amos' library of songs by heart, this CD would be a good place to open the card catalogue. It's a collection for the vault that represents most of her career and each of her growth spurts, but it is missing songs from "Scarlet's Walk" and "Strange Little Girls." All Amos fans are ridiculously devoted, and they likely already own every song on the album, with the possible exceptions of "Angel," "Mary" and "Snow Cherries From France."
She has remixed many of her classics, but she didn't necessarily do them any favors. I have heard much better versions of "Precious Things," "Sweet Dreams" and "Me and a Gun" (Tori's song about being raped), which sounded more powerful on "Little Earthquakes."
Still, this would be a great CD to have if stranded on a deserted island. It has "Silent All These Years," which is the first song that seduced me into her little fantasy world.
This collection thankfully has "Playboy Mommy," "Jackie's Strength" and "Way Down," which show her depth of passion and expressive lyrics. "Mr. Zebra" is included as well - it's one of those songs I will never understand, but I love it.
Amos molded "Professional Widow" into a techno club version, which seemed somewhat displaced on this album but shows the interpretive potential of her music - she has shown this before with "Tatula" and "Sugar" (which are not on this CD).
The included DVD provides some insight into this complicated and somewhat mysterious artist. And you'll wonder how she found the time to do so many photo shoots.
Amos always will be one of my favorite artists because of her power to disarm and hypnotize, and her emotion-ridden lyrics are only amplified by this library of dexterity.
Rating: This CD is for all the raisin girls.
Regina Spektor, "Begin To Hope"
Available at All That Jazz for $16.98
Regina Spektor is a clever girl with a fresh new voice, and her music takes an acquired taste that I can see eliciting a devoted fan base analogous to someone like Tori Amos with the guts of Mary Prankster. She's got the catchy melodies and mature subjects that still retain the charm of singing into a hairbrush in front of the bathroom mirror.
In "Apres Moi," she sounds like Bjork, but her Russian lyrics help build on her Soviet edge. She gets punkish in "That Time," a cute little song about cute little things until she busts out, "Hey, remember that time when you OD'd for the second time?" That's what I like about Spektor - just went you think she is more anti-pop then anti-folk, she throws in some sobering reference that adds another layer of depth to her persona. This is well illustrated in "Edit," a punchy song about cocaine. She sings, "You don't have no Dr. Robert/You don't have no Uncle Albert/You don't even have good credit/You can write but you can't edit." Not a bad way to describe a drug addiction. "Lady" further stretches her ability by adding a jazzy tune to the album.
The CD starts off really strong, loses me somewhere in the middle, but sold me in the end.
Rating: Pick up that hairbrush and sing along with Regina when no one's listening.
Death Cab for Cutie, "Transatlanticism"
Available at All That Jazz for $15.98
Note: This is not a new CD. This is a 2003 release. The band's latest release is "Plans" from 2005.
Death Cab for Cutie holds the smoking gun of indie-rock with "Transatlanticism." The CD is an emotional journey through relationships loved and lost.
This was my first meeting with Death Cab and I'm ready to get the meter running. It's balanced and introspective, and the lyrics will speak to you if you listen closely enough. You may even close your eyes to take it all in.
I can imagine this CD rotating through dorm rooms all across the country between young people searching to hold on to something to believe in. It's just dreamy enough to be infectious.
I liked the optimism of "The New Year" but was floored by the honesty of "Tiny Vessels": "This is the moment that you know/that you told her that you loved her but you don't/touch her skin and then you think/that she is beautiful but she don't mean a thing to me/yeah she is beautiful but she don't mean a thing to me."
"A Lack of Color" provides a touching way to end the CD. Its slow and careful guitar and sweet and sticky lyrics will seduce you: "And when I see you I really see you upside down/but my brain knows better/it picks you up and turns you around/turns you around/turns you around."
Rating: Roll the window down, put on your headphones and listen to the whole CD straight through without leaving your driveway.