“Little Earthquakes” by Tori Amos (No. 48)

Little Earthquakes by Tori Amos album coverWhat’s not to love about Tori Amos‘ debut album, Little Earthquakes? Amos’ command of the piano, her lovely and haunting voice, and the incredibly well-written songs make for an incredibly compelling package.

If you’ve never listened to Amos before, you realize with “Crucify” that you’re not in for a standard pop record. Her voice, her piano playing, the dynamics of the song… everything comes together like nothing else you’ve heard before. Or if you have, you need to tell me what I’ve been missing out on!

“Silent All These Years” is amazing. Revisiting Earthquakes to write about it, I tried to listen to “Silent” with new ears, imagining what it’d be like to hear it for the first time or to recall my first reaction to it. I suspect that I first heard it on MTV or radio, and didn’t really listen to it closely until I’d been exposed to it repeatedly. The song starts sparse, just a simple melody on the piano and Amos’ voice, and powerful lyrics. But the song builds in intensity while remaining incredibly intimate and personal.

The strings in the background of “Precious Things” are almost menacing, evoking (at least with me) the idea of wolves howling off in the distance. I love the dynamics of this song, the powerful drums, and Amos’ almost primal growling on this one.

And then “Winter” has such a beautiful, haunting melody. It’s a melancholy tune, wistful and nostalgic. The cello, used sparingly here, never fails to grab me. It’s simply a wonderful piece of music, and still gives me chills nearly 25 years later.

“Precious Things” and “Winter” are a little heavy, so the jaunty approach of “Happy Phantom” gives listeners a chance to come up for air.

If you need any proof how powerful Amos voice is, you need only listen to “Me and a Gun.” Delivered a cappella, it’s hard to imagine anyone else turning a traumatic personal experience into such affecting music.

Finally, the album’s title track, “Little Earthquakes” follows “Me and a Gun.” This one starts slowly, only really picking up intensity and speed more than three minutes in. It’s a great track, though perhaps my least favorite on the album. Which is to say, I enjoy it rather a lot, just slightly less than I enjoy the rest of the album.

Little Earthquakes has more amazing songs in one place than many artists manage to scrape out through the entire life of their career. I’ve seen Amos live twice, and songs from Earthquakes (and Under the Pink) are always the highlight of the live sets.

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