Tori Amos, Night of Hunters – An acoustic album based on classical themes, which is an interesting move. In a way, I think it brings some life to her music, since even though her last few releases certainly had some good songs, they veered a little too much in the adult contemporary direction. A few of the songs have Tori singing with her daughter Natashya. One song that stands out for me is “Battle of Trees,” based partially on a Welsh myth about the magician Gwydion animating trees to fight on his behalf. This was the subject of a medieval poem, and the references to language relate to the idea that the poem used the trees to represent the letters of the Ogham alphabet, and hence encode references to the pre-Christian druidic religion. The lyrics to the Tori song appear to relate the encoded language of the poem to a breakdown in communication between two lovers, although it can be hard to tell exactly what she means sometimes. Okay, a lot of the time. “Cactus Practice” and “Edge of the Moon” are also early favorites of mine.
St. Vincent, Strange Mercy – I’m not really sure what draws me to Annie Clark’s music, but something definitely does. She has a pretty voice that makes an interesting contrast to the weird and sometimes chaotic music she makes. Also, she plays a lot of instruments, which is generally a plus. By the way, does anyone know what that is on the cover? When I first saw an image of it, I thought it was some sort of bubble, but looking at the actual cover makes it clear that the bit in the middle is actually indented.
Sloan, The Double Cross – The title of this one refers in a rather enigmatic way to the fact that the band is celebrating their twentieth anniversary, which is hard to believe, but I guess makes sense. Anyway, the Roman numeral for twenty is two X’s, or two crosses. Pretty clever play on words, but then, “Navy Blues” isn’t bad either. Nothing on this record really excited me that much, but like most of their stuff, it’s still quite fun and catchy.
Sklar Brothers, Hendersons and Daughters – Randy and Jason Sklar are twin brothers who are comedians, whom I remember from when they hosted Cheap Seats on ESPN. This was sort of like Mystery Science Theater for old sporting events, with the Sklars making sarcastic comments about the videos. I enjoyed what I saw of it, and I’m not at all a sports person. The comedy on the album covers topics such as television shows and commercials, how fairy tales make no sense, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s one-liners, and weird bits in sports movies.
Piñataland, Hymns for the Dreadful Night – This record is basically more of the same, but that’s hardly a bad thing. An eclectic mix of instruments is featured on a series of songs that often deal with somewhat obscure historical topics.