Review #233: Little Earthquakes, Tori Amos

Karla Clifton
3 min readFeb 2, 2022

#233: Little Earthquakes, Tori Amos

Someone commented on my recent Joni Mitchell review that some albums work best in certain seasons. There was a huge snowstorm on the day that I decided to marathon Little Earthquakes, and it felt so right — and not just because there’s a song called “Winter.” (By the way: We’ll miss you on Spotify, Joni! But do what you gotta do.)

Tori Amos got a scholarship at Johns Hopkins University at age 5, which should intimidate you. She was also in a synth-pop band before releasing her debut, which should surprise you, unless you watch any of these music videos.

This is a woman’s album and doesn’t make any bones about it. Her voice is high and warbly and there’s piano all over. It’s an album that I wouldn’t have touched with a ten-foot pole a year ago. Thank God people change.

Every song, particularly “Crucify” (which has a thrilling climax) and “Girl” (which she wrote after her record company rejected the first draft of the album), deals with trauma, abuse, and the experience of being a girl in general. I was reading Magma by Thora Hjorleifsdottir as I listened to this one and it made the whole album hit that much harder. (Highly recommend, if you want to get upset about abusive relationships.)

They’re all ballads, but none of them are typical or pedestrian. And there are so many great lines on them, too. See: “Silent All These Years,” where she wonders What’s so amazing about really deep thoughts? and “Mother” where she declares Mother, the car is here/Somebody leave the light on.

And Amos’ voice is absolutely arresting. “Me and a Gun” is completely a capella. My opinion of “Little Earthquakes” underwent a 180 while I listened to the album repeatedly. At first I thought she sounded whiny, and then I realized how much control over her vibrato she had.

My personal favorite was “Happy Phantom,” which is also the happiest song about dying I’ve ever heard. A-whoo-hoo! Will I pay for who I’ve been?

This was released in 1992, and reminded me of all the female artists I adore. I wrote down so many names while I listened: Regina Spektor, Fiona Apple, Alanis Morissette. (In fact, “China” has a suspiciously similar melody to “Perfect” by Alanis on #69, Jagged Little Pill…)

Can you believe I forced my boyfriend to listen to Tori Amos? It was good for him, even if he said at one point, “I wish she would sing … something else.”

Other Highlights: “Leather,” where she sounds like a coked-out angel. “Precious Things,” which forced me to double-check that she’s really an American musician. (She sounds so UK!) “Tear in Your Hand,” which doesn’t sound anything like “Tear in My Heart” by 21 Pilots.

IS RS FULL OF IT? Yes, of course, always — just not for including Little Earthquakes.

Review #232: Giant Steps, John Coltrane

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