Tori Amos On Her Fifteenth Album, The Militia Of The Mind, And What To Do When The World Is Crumbling

Life & Culture Editor
09.08.17

Tori Amos hasn’t shied away from anything in her decades-spanning career, and her fifteenth album — Native Invader, out today, is no different. Emotional, lyrical, and fiery, the album’s lush, melodic soundscapes reels from major issue to major issue, turning the personal into the global and the political. But don’t take the album’s produced, often dreamy sound as an indication that this Amos is any less powerful than the Tori of previous eras. Where she once broke your heart into pieces with the pounding of her harpsichord, Amos is now calling on her listeners to take a stand with every urgent bass line and every ethereal echo. A stand against hate, against climate change, against the never-ending machinations of the political machine.

It’s a lot to absorb in in one listen, and this album deserves many. As a follower of Amos’ work since my teenage years, it’s one that I’ve been waiting for. While her most recent albums — Abnormally Attracted To Sin, Night Of Hunters, Gold Dust, Unrepentant Geraldines — have all featured standouts that have a home on any Spotify playlist I curate (I’m only allowed to bring Midwinter Graces out around the holidays), Native Invader feels like it must be listened through. And then listened through again until you really hear it.

Much of the album’s power comes from how intimate it feels. Amos’ original intent was to connect with the stories and song lines of her mother’s family, but then the universe decided it had other plans. First, the 2016 election shook America to its core; then, only months later, Amos’ mother, Maryellen Amos, suffered a debilitating stroke that robbed her of the ability to speak. The pain that sweeps through the album is Amos’, but as she unleashes the full spectrum of her emotions across the sonic divide — grief, hope, anger, a frustration with fake news (that’s an emotion now), healing — it feels like yours, too.

“It wasn’t going to be a record of pain, blood and bone when I began,” Amos said in a release leading up to the album’s drop date. “It wasn’t going to be a record of division. But the Muses 9 insisted that I listened and watched the conflicts that were traumatizing the nation and write about those raw emotions. Hopefully people will find strength and resilience within the songs to give them the energy to survive the storms that we are currently in.”

I spoke to Amos about Native Invader, the militia of the mind, and how to stay strong when it feels like the entire world is collapsing.

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