Abnormally Attracted to Sin
|Abnormally Attracted to Sin|
|Studio album by Tori Amos|
|Released||May 19, 2009|
|Recorded||Cornwall, United Kingdom|
|Genre||Alternative rock, baroque pop, piano rock, electronica, trip hop|
|Tori Amos chronology|
|Singles from Abnormally Attracted to Sin|
Abnormally Attracted to Sin is the tenth solo studio album by American singer-songwriter Tori Amos. It was released in the UK on 18 May 2009 and in the US on 19 May 2009 as a digital download, standard CD, and deluxe limited edition CD/DVD. The album debuted on Billboard 200's "top ten" list at #9, making it her seventh album to do so. The album can be cited as the first non-conceptualized and self-proclaimed "personal album" by the singer-songwriter in over 10 years.
While Amos had previously stated that she would be releasing music independently following her departure from Epic Records, a chance encounter with a former mentor of hers in the music industry led to a deal with Universal Republic Records, making Abnormally Attracted to Sin her first release under her new label.
As with previous albums, Abnormally Attracted to Sin was recorded at Martian Studios in Cornwall with long-time collaborators Matt Chamberlain on drums, Jon Evans on bass, Mac Aladdin on guitar, and John Philip Shenale on strings.
All songs written and composed by Amos.
|2.||"Welcome to England"||4:08|
|3.||"Strong Black Vine"||3:27|
|5.||"Not Dying Today"||4:01|
|8.||"Fire to Your Plain"||3:01|
|11.||"Abnormally Attracted to Sin"||5:33|
|17.||"Lady in Blue"||7:10|
- Bonus track
"Oscar's Theme" is the sole non-LP track from the Abnormally Attracted to Sin album recording sessions to be released as a b-side. The track is available as a "bonus track" on the standard digital version of the album purchased through iTunes in some countries, and on the standard physical album in Australia and the UK.
For the album's photographic component, Amos enlisted fashion photographer Karen Collins. "I love the way [Collins] shoots women," Amos stated about the photographer's work. "It's not vulgar or demeaning, but I find it just sexy. They look empowered to me, and I like her style." The setting for the album's artwork is a cream-colored hotel room, with various photos of Amos depicting different ideas of sensuality through images such as voyeurism and sadomasochism, both of which tie into the ideas of power explored throughout the album.
From its beginning stages, Abnormally Attracted to Sin was intended to be an audio-visual project including an abundance of synchronizing visuals, and filming these visualettes was a significant catalyst for the development of the album itself.
Christian Lamb, who has worked with the likes of Madonna, Incubus, and Ozzy Osbourne, was initially hired by Amos to shoot footage of her 2007 world tour for an intended live/concert DVD. However, after disagreements with Epic Records - the details of which have remained vague in the media, which has only cited "creative and financial differences" - Amos left the label and joined Universal Music Group, temporarily stalling the completion and release of the DVD.
Along with the creative spurt in song-writing that she was met by during her world tour and while in California the following year, Amos also became increasingly inspired by all of the footage Lamb had shot of her concerts, and which he had already begun to organize and edit. Amos has stated that viewing the footage inspired certain songs, while certain songs inspired the shaping of some of the footage into several of the final vignettes.
As a result of this sudden bit of inspiration, Amos requested that Lamb shoot more footage. The live/concert DVD had suddenly morphed into a complementary "film" that would accompany her next album.
The footage was shot in HD and Super 8 and, due to financial limitations, was edited by a series of Lamb's "assistants" causing noted criticism of the films' unfocused and, at times, disparate narratives.
Seemingly inspired more by her love of fashion, canvas art and paintings rather than by silent films, The Road Chronicles is composed of sixteen vignettes in which Amos can be found “playing” herself, along with the archetypal "dolls” from her previous effort, in dream-sequences infused with myriad metaphors, symbols, images, locations and haute couture fashion-pieces that are meant to evoke and open up the themes and experiences tackled on each of the corresponding 16 songs.
Amos, herself, has stated, "I began to really think about the idea of a story being told through the visuals and yet the song itself giving us all the information – that’s our dialogue. I didn’t want any lip-syncing."
About the look of the visualettes, Amos has said: "We wanted to do pretty much 8mm and more of a late ‘60’s, indie kind of feeling and that began the visualette world."
In each of the “small films”, as Amos also refers to them, she can be found in a series of scenarios – wandering along the shady streets of a random red-light district; stalking herself in a cemetery; in the throes of a psychic’s reading and a manic ceremonial bath; cruising men late into the night in a shady bar; smoking and "cleansing" herself with ceremonial tobacco smoke – that are meant to evoke some issue or experience from life she is grappling with.
Along with portraying herself, Amos can be seen portraying “the dolls” from 2007's American Doll Posse, in an apparent attempt at deconstructing that album's concept.
In these visualettes, all of the dolls seem to be “acting out” various feelings, experiences and fantasies Amos grapples with on the album. The final visualette of the DVD is for the song Abnormally Attracted to Sin, and has Amos entering a church and kneeling before an altar, seemingly coming to terms with her own spirituality and "a natural kind of faith", as she sings on the aforementioned closing-track.
Chapter/Visualette index (DVD)
The tracklisting that forms the backbone to The Road Chronicles differs greatly from the one comprising the standard edition of the album. Amos has stated that this was a purposeful decision on her part, noting, "I think the visualettes connect [the songs] as well. The order is different though, which was very intentional. The order of the visual side of things is different than if you're just putting the sonic thing on headphones and taking a walk. I felt like you had to experience it very, very differently."
- "That Guy"
- "Welcome to England"
- "Strong Black Vine"
- "Fast Horse"
- "Fire to Your Plain
- "Curtain Call"
- "Not Dying Today"
- "Maybe California"
- "Police Me"
- "500 Miles"
- "Lady in Blue"
- "Abnormally Attracted to Sin"
|The A.V. Club||B−|
|Drowned in Sound||(7/10)|
|Los Angeles Times|||
The album received modest to genuinely positive praise from critics, with most negative comments aimed at the album's extensive running time rather than its musical content. At Metacritic, it's been given a score of 62 out of 100 based on 17 reviews.
"[Amos's 10th] studio release finds her in full command of her expanded arsenal, creating an overall sound that's as psychedelic as it is classic," wrote Billboard, adding, "the sounds coupled with [the] lyrical content [found on the album] — metaphors rendered through literary heroines, religious imagery, exotic food, cities as characters, triple entendres — make for a singular tapestry that, as the artist matures, requires less and less prior knowledge of her catalog to enjoy." Slant Magazine gave the album a mixed, yet mostly positive, review, exclaiming unapologetically, "It's a genuine relief that [this album] lacks the cumbersome structural conceit of Scarlet's Walk or the dissociative identity disorder of American Doll Posse. Rather than suffocating her songs under a pretentious broad construct, here Amos allows them to stand on their own merits and, in turn, demonstrates the superior craft upon which she first made her name." Slug Magazine called it "one of 2009’s finest albums," while the Los Angeles Times praised the album's "canny balance between Victorian-inspired decadence, mythical pathos and arch camp." Entertainment Weekly magazine noted, "Sometimes her brains get a little too big for her Bible. But when she's banging on her piano over layers of lush electronics, she's got the rapture part down."
Reviews in Rolling Stone, Mojo and Q were less favorable, although, while criticizing it as a "long haul", the latter did admit that the album contained "some of the best [songs] Amos has written." Spin noted, "Amos writes no less penetratingly than she did on her first album about the way women navigate the intersection between sex and power," while PopMatters lauded the album for its experimental sound, calling it an "exploration of the journey from that dark, quiet beginning to that beautifully indulgent conclusion," praising the album's "twists and turns along the way." musicOMH added that the album "turns out to be a collection of tracks that simply doesn't work as a whole because it can't properly be listened to in one go. Pity, for somewhere in amongst it all Tori proves that she's still capable of producing a storming album."
The music website, Drowned in Sound, concluded, "Occasionally vague, sometimes incohesive and a little self-indulgent it may be, but ultimately Abnormally Attracted to Sin is an abnormally attractive piece of work, and another fine example of the shining talent that is Tori Amos."
The album itself was written and conceived in two stages: the first during Amos's 2007 world tour, while promoting American Doll Posse, followed by a spurt of writing and composing during a second phase in July 2008, when Amos reconnected with her former mentor Doug Morris while visiting California to promote a graphic-novel anthology, Comic Book Tattoo .
During her brief stay in California, Amos revisited some of the old homes and haunts she frequented as a twenty-something singer-songwriter in Los Angeles during the late '80s and that, coupled with some of her own reflections and conclusions as a wife, mother and maturing woman, led to another spontaneous creative spell, providing a catalyst for "a second batch of songs", as Amos puts it, which, when combined with the initial new songs written and composed during late-2007 and early-2008, would end up fleshing out the rest of the album.
Due to both financial limitations and disagreements over the project with her previous label, Epic Records, Amos abruptly left the label and the footage shot of her 2007 world-tour morphed into the vignettes or visualettes, as Amos coined them, that would be paired with the new album on an accompanying DVD, The Road Chronicles, as part of an "audio-visual project".
Postponing further work on the planned live DVD of her 2007 world-tour and using some of the complementary footage shot for the DVD to compile a series of vignettes, Amos turned and focused her attention on creating and presenting a multimedia project aimed at deconstructing her previous album's concept and exploring, once again, a more personal and confessional space in the singer-songwriter's life and career, using a juxtaposition between the visual and sonic mediums to broaden and emphasize the personal scope of the project.
"As you know with the archetypes from the last record," said Amos in May 2009, "I was really trying to find sides to myself that I hadn’t allowed myself. I don’t need to put on Pip’s [one of the characters Amos created for her last album] garb to walk into that. That was a huge place to get to."
Amos's brief stay in L.A. during the summer of 2008 also afforded her the opportunity to revisit her old apartment, in which her debut solo-album, 1991's Little Earthquakes, was written, conceived and, in some instances, recorded. She also made a point of visiting the old church behind which the apartment was built. In past interviews, Amos has stated how songs such as Crucify and Precious Things were written while living behind the church, listening to endless sermons and worship-songs for hours at a time, alone, hurt and depressed behind her failure as a musician (1988's Y Kant Tori Read), and her role as a victim and survivor of physical and sexual assault. It was a threshold moment for Amos, providing her a time of respite, solace and a bit of reflection regarding her life and past.
Things were black and that’s before a whole second part of the record got written and developed when I came back to the states for Comic-Con [in July 2008]. And I was on my home ground where I wrote Little Earthquakes and there was a metamorphosis that happened. I passed by that little house where I wrote it and I thought, I took on a lot back then — I can take this on. I can fight. But I had lost how to fight. I had to change everything to fight — all kinds of people had to change. The one thing that kept me going was the love that Tash and Mark had for me. I just saw that I was becoming totally devastated and beaten.
Themes and content
With Amos's four preceding albums serving as mouthpieces for various concepts and philosophies, Abnormally Attracted to Sin marks a return to a more personal album, which serves as fertile ground for her loosely-veiled confessions, stark and, at times, exuberant disclosures through which she explores her own experiences, and how she has both defined and been defined by them throughout her life and career. Of the album, Amos has called it a personal album, stating, "it is not a concept album. It is a red-headed woman singing songs."
During an interview with Out Magazine, Amos used the song "Maybe California", a track from the album in which a mother ruminates on leaving her husband and child(ren) "better off" as she contemplates suicide, to explain just how personal writing and composing both the song and the record as a whole were for her: "I wouldn’t have written this record if I hadn’t been pushed — for all kinds of reasons. I don’t want to go into all of it but “Maybe California” doesn’t come from nowhere. You’re not able to write that by having a drink with somebody who’s had the experience and you haven’t. You have to be pushed to that place." She stated that the mother in the song "is pushed to the point where there's nothing that she can give to stop this terrible emotional cancer that has taken over her family - her life - everything around her." Adding credence to the notion that the song is deeply autobiographical, Amos chose to highlight the despair older, more mature women, such as herself, face: "I began to realize how serious this quiet, tragic problem was and that it's not okay to talk about it, whereas teen suicide or early-20's suicide - it gets discussed and it's almost something where there are [forums] for it. But mothers contemplating this - my God - they're just going to put you in a nuthouse."
On both the aforementioned track and yet another song, "Ophelia", from the album, Amos addresses her own moments of insecurity and self-loathing as a "mature woman". She observed, "The self-harming mind tries to gain [the] control that [it] feels has been taken from [it]. It's this very strange paradox where, by doing the wounding on yourself, you're in the power position. Although, the idea that you've become your own abuser - it's not necessarily being grasped. And so, you can step into that "Ophelia" state of mind - however old you are - where you start that downward spiral and you're not on the 'front-foot' anymore in life, you're on the 'back foot', and there's a victimization-energy around you."
In an exclusive interview with the German division of Amazon.com, Amos continued her emphasis on "the personal": “I think I’ve been having my own life changes happening just like everybody else, and being in California [in July of 2008] for a longer period of time than I normally get to be there kind of pushed me to a place of reevaluating where I am in my life and where I was while I was writing Little Earthquakes. And so I think that’s – that’s what you’re hearing [on this record].”
Amos said, "My songs might be confessional, but I don’t like giving away too many details. One of the reasons I’ve made ten albums and maintained my family life is that I respect my own privacy." She confessed, "At times, I have used made-up characters to keep the media at bay."
During an interview broadcast on youtube.com, "I guess the girl that released Little Earthquakes was not a mother and she was in her 20's and there were a lot of things that she really did discover. She found her voice...and then nine records later, the woman who is putting out Abnormally Attracted to Sin knows what she did with her voice."
Amos finished writing and composing Abnormally Attracted to Sin during the spring and summer of 2008. Recording commenced with Amos accompanied by long-time collaborators Matt Chamberlain, Jon Evans, Mark Hawley/"Mac Aladdin" (Amos's husband), and John Philip Shenale, at Amos's husband's studio, Martian Studios, in Cornwall, with final mixing and mastering extending into the initial months of 2009.
Amos chose a dark and intricately "detailed sonic landscape" for the album, and has mentioned that the production that went into the album reminded her of the experience she and her collaborators had creating From the Choirgirl Hotel (1998), which showcased various samplers and synthesizers.
I’ve been working with the new keyboards and ultimately developing one sound. So, in a way, this record reminded me of the experience that I had [working on] From the Choirgirl Hotel, where technology and keyboards and the Bösendorfer were working together in an advanced way.
On developing the sound of one of the songs and of the album in general, Amos declared, "It became much more of a technology experiment [with] the piano being there but in this strange world."
I think that that there are a lot of different styles on the record," continued Amos in another interview. "I’ve been composing now for over 40 years, and each song in a way takes you to this different place. Maybe some of them are dark, rich caves. Hopefully there’s a nice piano player sitting there taking your request in the cave.
The chart below lists the album debut positions (within the top 30) in major markets around the globe.
|Billboard 200 (US)||9|
|Billboard Top Digital Albums (US)||6|
|Billboard Top Internet Albums (US)||4|
|United World Albums Chart||11|
|Official UK Album Chart (UK)||20|
|ARIA Album Chart (Australia)||28|
|Belgian Albums Chart (Flanders)||23|
|Canadian Albums Chart||15|
|Dutch Albums Chart||22|
|Finnish Albums Chart||20|
|German Albums Chart||16|
|Polish Albums Chart||7|
|Swiss Albums Chart||14|
|Italian Albums Chart||30|
|Taiwan Albums Chart||16|
Additionally, the album debuted at #2 on the following two genre-specific Billboard charts: the Top Modern Rock/Alternative Albums chart and the Top Rock Albums chart.
"Welcome To England" served as the lead single from Abnormally Attracted to Sin. The single was released for digital download on April 14, 2009, in the US, and on May 25, 2009 in the UK, a week after the release of the album. Like most of Amos's singles released this decade, "Welcome to England" was released only as a digital single. The single entered the Billboard Triple A chart in May 2009, and in June ascended into the chart's top 10, making it Amos's fifth single to reach the Triple A top 10.
"Maybe California" reached #1 in Portugal.
|"Welcome to England " (2009)||US AAA||10|
|"Welcome to England " (2009)||Belgian Singles Chart “Tip” (Wallonia)||26|
|"Maybe California" (2009)||Portugal||01|
- Tori Amos – vocals, piano, Wurlitzer, Hammond, synths
- Matt Chamberlain – drums & percussion
- Jon Evans – bass
- Mac Aladdin – electric guitar
- John Philip Shenale – strings, Wurlitzer, Hammond
- Tori Amos – record producer
- Mark Hawley – mixer
- Marcel van Limbeek – mixer
- Christian Lamb – videography
- Karen Collins – photography
Like all of Amos's post-Atlantic releases, Abnormally Attracted to Sin is offered in both standard and limited edition versions, the latter including a DVD containing 'visualettes' that provide a video accompaniment to most of the album tracks.
|Australia||15 May 2009||Universal Republic||CD||060252703435|
|Poland||Universal Music Group|
|United Kingdom||18 May 2009||Island||2704664|
|Canada||19 May 2009||Republic|
|United States||Universal Republic||001287302 (standard)|
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