In a recent edition of Lenny Letter, Tori Amos recounts taking a trip to retrace her mother’s Appalachian ancestry. She didn’t write any songs on that journey, Amos says, but her new Native Invader feels like a homecoming nonetheless. Featuring a song dedicated to Amos’ mother and vocals from her own daughter, Native Invader sees the singer exploring the pagan “mother” archetype, both personally and globally. With themes of healing and strife, the album is a deeply felt call for unity that weaves different threads of Amos’ songwriting style into a harmonious whole.
Musically, Native Invader finds a balance between Amos’ ongoing flirtations with electronica and guitar rock and the more organic, orchestral aspects of her sound, with lush results. “Wings” is a gentle, trip-hop-influenced lullaby for an anxious era; “Bang” offers a cosmic rebuttal to prejudice (“Bang the world, now traumatized / By a cluster of humans who side / With warlords of hate / We must out-create”) with handclaps and electric guitar; and “Cloud Riders” smolders with a desert swagger reminiscent of one of Amos’ most famous tracks, 1993’s “Cornflake Girl.” All this is anchored by Amos’ classically trained mezzo-soprano voice and piano, at turns ethereal (“Climb”; the spare, intimate “Breakaway”) and resonant (“Wildwood”; album opener “Reindeer King”).
Native Invader isn’t as confrontational as Amos’ early work, and as a result, once or twice the album takes a brief detour into coffeeshop cliché. But even the sillier lyrical content is elevated by Amos’ talent for arrangement and distinctive snippets of melody, like the unexpected earworm in the chorus of “Chocolate Song.” In a world desperately in need of comfort, Native Invader is an invitation to introspection and sensuous delight, inspired by the dappled sunlight and cool springs of the forest. If you’ve been out of the Tori fold, now is a perfect time to come home.