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Tori Amos 

Abnormally Attracted to Sin (Universal Republic)

Though she made her name as one of the most confessional songwriters of the '90s, the Tori Amos of the aughts is an epic myth-weaver, layering characters upon back-stories upon eras upon the piano. Where the actual Tori appears these days can be hard to parse, especially on 2007's American Doll Posse, 23 tracks sung from the perspectives of five women. The personalities have been dropped for the 17 songs of Abnormally Attracted to Sin---instead, Amos ratchets up the percussion and takes a truncated scarlet walk around the world, stopping in her adopted home of England, her birthplace in the Southern US, and her early career base, LA. "Maybe California" sounds the most classic, a mournful ballad whose protagonist discovers she needs something else, and that's what her best songs have always depicted: women put into boxes against their wills or better judgment, introducing us to them at the precise moment they decide to bust out. In the seeming love song "500 Miles," she spends two minutes detailing devotion, then pulls the rug: "I lost myself." On the cautionary heroin tale "Curtain Call," she drops a life lesson: "By the time you're 35, I must confide, you will have blown them all." The last line she sings is "I can play too," and then a Tori Amos record ends on a jam-out for the first time, and does it ever feel like a new beginning.

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