WITH lilting vocals and strong piano ballads, Tori Amos stamps her unique sound on album number 14, Unrepentant Geraldines.
As a whole, the album is a statement of female empowerment. Amos sings of taking back femininity and refusing to apologise for being exactly who you are in the title track Unrepentant Geraldines, Trouble's Lament, Wild Way, 16 Shades of Blue and Oysters.
Despite the strong feminist message inherent in the album, none of the songs alienate male listeners; there is no man-hating to be found on any of the 14 tracks.
There are four piano ballads on Unrepentant Geraldines, and, whether intended or not, they speak equally with the voices of men and women; a reminiscent woman and her husband (Wild Way, which starts with the lyrics "I hate you, I hate you, I do"), a loving couple separated by seas and time (Selkie), an unpopular girl shaping her identity (Oysters) and a boy that struggles to be himself (Invisible Boy).
The most commercial song on the album is the back-and-forth vocal piece Promise which has the sort of melodic vocals one would expect of Vanessa Carlton.
Many of the songs tell whimsical tales that have a deeper meaning below the surface. What exact message Amos hopes to convey with these lyrics is highly open to interpretation, with several of her songs featuring subtle religious musings (and the track Unrepentant Geraldines featuring overt Christian symbolism), but each taken on their words alone evokes illustrative stories.
One such storybook song is the Lenka-like Giant's Rolling Pin. The strange song tells of Beth and Marlene's pies - with help from Caroline - which can reveal the truth with just a bite, so the authorities want to decide who deserves a slice.
It is delightfully playful, and likely to be stuck in the listener's head for days after hearing the song.
The song of the album is arguably Trouble's Lament, Unrepentant Geraldines' second song. It has a mesmerising, almost southern feel, and is the first song that calls to Amos' feminist theme, with the opening line: "Trouble needs a home, girls". Trouble's Lament personifies various ideas, with Trouble, Despair and Danger all given human characteristics.
Unrepentant Geraldines is a wonderfully quirky album of feminist stories and empowerment, and is a return to form for one of the most unique songwriters of the past 20 years.
The album is out now through Universal Music.