Music » Album Reviews

Tori Amos, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, and The Black Keys


Tori Amos

Unrepentant Geraldines

Mercury Classics

File next to: Regina Spektor, Dillon

Casual Tori Amos fans might list earlier works such as Boys for Pele or Little Earthquakes as favorites, but intense Toriholics often mention 2007's American Doll Posse, a sprawling, complex work that gave equal play to Amos' conflicting personae. Unrepentant Geraldines seeks to bring back that album's spirit, at least in part, which makes it rank high in the Tori canon. Her mezzo-soprano voice is in fine form, her acerbic lyrics get a workout in "16 Shades of Blue" (where her recent half-century gets tossed off as "50 is the new black"), and her brutal honesty arises in "Promise" and "Giant's Rolling Pin." The only flaw is that the musical arrangements are so good, they sound almost New Age at times, a kiss of death for a middle-aged lyricist. Tori remains on top of her contemporaries, but retaining rough edges should be more of a priority next time. — Loring Wirbel


The Pains of Being Pure at Heart

Days of Abandon

Yebo Music

File next to: Camera Obscura, The Radio Dept., Ringo Deathstarr

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart have a reputation for being twee enough to make Belle and Sebastian sound like death metal. This traces back to founder Kip Berman's adolescent lyrical sincerity, and also to his thin tenor vocals. Days of Abandon, the band's third album, tries to expand from the image of the kid that cries in gym class. Berman works his guitar to get Johnny Marr styles of ringing, and the lyrics to songs like "Coral and Gold" show some maturity. Still, the band is at its best when Jen Goma sings lead, as she does on "Kelly" and "Life After Life." Goma provides a strident female voice melding the Shangri-Las and Dum Dum Girls. Berman can impress us enough with his writing and guitar licks, but let's hope he continues to rely on Goma for vocals that make this a better band. — Loring Wirbel


The Black Keys

Turn Blue


File next to: Arctic Monkeys, The Kills, Four Tops

Where The Black Keys' El Camino opened with a roar, the new album slides into "Weight of Love" with riffs that sound like Neil Young's "Down by the River." Danger Mouse's production on Turn Blue unexpectedly shifts the duo's sound away from the blues and more toward minor-key Motown works. The songs here are sadder and angrier than on any previous Black Keys album, showing singer-guitarist Dan Auerbach working out his demons. Maybe the band is too calculated in offering melancholy as concept album, but even deliberate emotional tweaks are better than making the same album over and over. Rolling Stone would have you believe that Turn Blue is The Black Keys' masterpiece for the ages. Not so. It is an interesting shift into soul-beat sadness, worthy of many listens, but not necessarily in the year's top albums. — Loring Wirbel

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