Tori Amos

Tori Amos' previous album, 2007's American Doll Posse, brought back the rebellious-outsider attitude that attracted her legions of fans in the first place. And, on this record, Amos throws a full-on middle finger in the face of her suspected post-childbirth mellowing (2005's The Beekeeper).

There's not a weak track until No. 6, the lyrically strong yet musically overwrought piano-and-strings ballad "Maybe California." Luckily, the album locks right back into step on "Curtain Call," a creeping (and creepy) number that, like several Abnormally tracks, keeps the listener off-balance by allowing various instruments to wander in and out.

Despite clocking in at damn near 80 minutes and apparently including all its own potential B-sides, this is the most cohesive album Amos has released in years; indeed, it seems to be the first one she didn't feel the need to invent even one alternate persona for since 2000's To Venus and Back. Sometimes she wears a knowing smirk, sometimes she's desperately pleading, other times she seems to be laughing openly or despairing quietly, but it's all her, at long last. Frankly, it's good to have her back.

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