And, finally, my over-the-top review, lol:
After scrapping the album she had intended to release this fall, Tori Amos wrote and recorded OCEAN TO OCEAN in a winter-to-summer flurry earlier this year, producing her most cohesive, accessible, and resplendent work in over two decades. If Amos' NATIVE INVADER (2017) was a moody and masterful, albeit less accessible, return to form centered on coming to terms with change and loss (at the time, Amos' mother was on the precipice of death), OCEAN TO OCEAN is a startlingly kaleidoscopic burst of sonic light, color, and energy focused on hope and resilience. Of course, this is not to say that the album lacks somber moments; after all, the catalyst for this batch of songs was a debilitating depression that followed, amongst other things, the death of her mother and a third lockdown brought on by the global pandemic. However, while Amos flirts with heartbreak here, she never succumbs to it. Instead, she serves up an evocative, reflective, and, ultimately, uplifting album that manages to sidestep the trite and treacly in favor of the terse and tenacious.
From the equally pensive and propulsive opening track, "Addition of Light Divided," to the haunting and reassuring closer, "Birthday Baby," Amos' latest songs range from wistful to exuberant. Together, they occupy the liminal space between sorrow and celebration, comprising an album that is at once iridescent and salubrious. The singles "Speaking with Trees" and "Spies" are invigorating and jaunty ruminations on loss and fear-induced insomnia, while "Devil's Bane" is a bluesy, tequila-spiked, country-inspired retaliation against guilt and shame. "Swim to New York State" starts like a shimmering dirge before expanding into a dazzling orchestral affirmation. The title track makes the political personal, serving up one of the album’s best chorus melodies, which manages to turn too-obvious lyrics into something unexpectedly rousing. "Flowers Burn to Gold" is an achingly hopeful ballad, both searching and resolute, sung to Amos' mother's ghost, while "Metal Water Wood" - the album's standout track - is by turns wise and whimsical, effervescent and cathartic. "29 Years" strikes an undulating balance between steamy and poignant, and the lull of the delicate penultimate track, "How Glass Is Made," is charged by a stirring bridge that links the chaotic to the crystalline.
OCEAN TO OCEAN emanates an infectious warmth, spontaneity, and effulgence that make it both comforting and galvanizing. Its distillation and transmutation of tragedy and despondency into a refreshingly poppy, sanative, and palpably resilient sonic landscape is striking. Amos' vocal deliveries are by turns subdued and confident, fragile and textured. While, occasionally, her lyrics veer close to being on the nose, it's clear that these songs are not calculated messages stemming from self-righteousness but rather off-the-cuff confessions born from a yearning to burst free and resurface from the dark waters of grief. Concurrently, her signature piano-playing is rich and resonant and, along with her keyboard work, acts as the fulcrum upon which the entire production spins. She is brilliantly accompanied by longtime collaborators Matt Chamberlain on drums, Jon Evans on bass, John Philip Shenale on strings and keyboards, and Mark Hawley (Amos' husband) on guitars. Their buoyant flourishes and adornments contribute significantly to making this an intricate, dynamic, and prismatic late-career effort by Amos.