Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Different shades of pop

music review

Tori Amos reinforces her popularity while Linkin Park reveals its intense side

Singer: Tori Amos
Album: Unrepentant Geraldines

Over the last two decades, few artists have managed to excite both mainstream and alternative audiences quite like Tori Amos has, and her new album Unrepentant Geraldines offers a concise summation of everything that has made the singer such a prominent presence in the world of music.

Tori’s 14th album marks her return to contemporary pop after pursuing other projects like a classical album, orchestral reworkings of music from her back catalogue, and a musical adaptation). Inspired by visual art, some of which is referenced in the song titles, Unrepentant Geraldines sees stunning songwriting and sublime vocals take center stage, gracefully gliding across a canvas of melodious piano tunes.

The 14 songs on the new set range from beautifully simple to mysteriously enchanting. The piano ballads, like ‘Selkie’, ‘Oysters’, and ‘Invisible Boy’, are lush and compelling. The singer also adds more textured and experimental touches to some of her songs, including the electro-tinged ‘16 Shades of Blue’ which comments on aging and ageism in the industry, and the Beatles-esque baroque pop of ‘Giant’s Rolling Pin’ which takes an offbeat look at the NSA surveillance scandal. And for one of the album’s most intimate moments, 13-year-old Natashya Hawley, Tori’s only child, shares the vocals on ‘Promise’ for an endearing conversation between mother and daughter.

Unrepentant Geraldines focuses on delivering solid tunes that are variously laden with longing and whimsy, often evoking Tori Amos’ early work and occasionally exploring new, refreshing ground. And while it may not be uniformly memorable, the album serves as yet another testament of the talent of this quirky singer.

Highlights: ‘America’, ‘Trouble’s Lament’, ’16 Shades of Blue’
Rating: ****

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Band: Linkin Park
Album: The Hunting Party

While Linkin Park still remains fairly visible, interest in the band has been progressively declining. TheirHybrid Theory (2000) became one of the best selling debuts of recent times, but their subsequent records have wandered farther and farther away from the sound that brought them their initial success. Now, in an effort to rejuvenate their image, the rap rock outfit is taking a step back from the electronic influences that have shaped their recent work and opting for a harder, more metal-oriented vibe on their sixth album, The Hunting Party.
triumphant first disc

For the new set, the group has chosen to part ways with Rick Rubin who produced their last three albums, and instead handed the reins of the project to band members Mike Shinoda and Brad Delson, while also writing and composing most of the material themselves. Guest musicians add more flavour to some of the songs, although the effects of their contributions vary. Helmet’s Page Hamilton provides vocals and guitars to the unadventurous ‘All For Nothing’; rapper Rakim delivers a verse on the over-long ‘Guilty All The Same’; System of a Down’s Daron Malakian adds fury to ‘Rebellion’; while guitarist Tom Morello’s input to ‘Drawbar’ is mostly squandered amidst the plaintive piano and drums on the track.

It’s impressive to see Linkin Park firmly and emphatically take charge of the creation of The Hunting Party and produce their heaviest record to date. But while the effort is generally competent, it doesn’t feel particularly fresh. It also doesn’t help that the lyrics are occasionally insipid and the individual songs often fail to stand out. Still, fans of their earlier material who were dismayed by the direction that Linkin Park took on their last few albums will welcome the return of the band’s more intense side.

Highlights: ‘Keys to the Kingdom’, ‘War’, ‘Until It’s Gone’
Rating: ***

- By Sameen Amer

Instep Today, The News - 25th June, 2014 *

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