Tori Amos
Ocean to Ocean


3.5
great

Review

by Brendan Schroer STAFF
November 10th, 2021 | 16 replies


Release Date: 2021 | Tracklist

Review Summary: If you’ve missed out on the last few Tori Amos records and need to get reacquainted with her work, Ocean to Ocean will catch you up to speed very nicely.

Yet another album born out of the COVID-19 pandemic, Ocean to Ocean was the result of the time Tori Amos spent in lockdown in Cornwall, England. The newfound free time allowed her to bask in the landscapes and “ancient myths” (in her words) of the county, something that’s conveyed very nicely by the scenic album cover as well. Such inspiration was quite promising to me going into the record because - let’s face it - Amos has been in a bit of a holding pattern in recent years. Her artsy piano-driven alternative-rock-meets-Kate-Bush shtick has led to some fantastic albums, especially in the beginning of her career, but I feel as though it eventually led to her revealing her limits as a singer-songwriter. But as 2014’s Unrepentant Geraldines has proven, Amos still does have the potential to pull out another quality release from time to time. So I was perfectly willing to give Ocean to Ocean a shot with an open mind; lo and behold, I was rewarded.

If you’re looking for something revolutionary that redefines Amos’ career, look elsewhere. This record is still very much in her wheelhouse; however, what Ocean to Ocean lacks in innovation, it makes up for in reflective songwriting and lovely chamber pop melodies. Opener “Addition of Light Divided” immediately sets the scene, as a sorrowful piano line is met with light tinges of acoustic guitar while subtle bass runs color the background. Amos’ lyrics perfectly compliment the music, as she fleshes out the general theme of division and broken connections: “break this chain of pain / you don’t want to stay broken”. This makes a lot of sense, as Amos pointed out in a 2021 Pitchfork interview that the record is largely about “[...]your losses, and how you cope with them”. That sense of loss and disconnection goes even deeper on “Speaking with Trees”, as Amos equates her grief with the trees around her, whom she senses might be feeling the same emptiness as herself. The song itself has a nice sense of contrast, as the melancholic melodies belie surprisingly upbeat drumwork.

What I really appreciate about Ocean to Ocean is that its mood and themes are very consistent. Amos clearly entered the studio with a specific vision in mind, and she rarely deviates from this - for better or for worse. With that said, there are some highlights that bring out the album’s palpable sense of sadness more effectively than the others. “Swim to New York State” is an absolutely gorgeous slice of chamber pop with sweeping strings and some of the most heart-wrenching piano work of Amos’ career; lovely stuff. Meanwhile, “Flowers Burn to Gold” strips away all backing instruments entirely to leave Amos with a lone piano; the song harkens back to her classic ballad “Winter” in both mood and composition, which can only be a good thing as far as I’m concerned. Then there’s the title track, which benefits from beautifully subtle and tasteful guitar work; this is especially true of the bass, which twists and bends around to provide its own unique melodies to the tune.

Still, none of this really shakes off the feeling of “been there, done that” when listening to Ocean to Ocean. As I stated earlier, this album won’t change your opinion on Tori Amos’ music; if you didn’t like her before, you won’t like her now. But for a solo career that’s gone on for almost three decades now, it’s nice to know that she has the inspiration to release something this solid. If you’ve avoided the last few Tori Amos records and need to be reacquainted with her work, Ocean to Ocean will catch you up to speed very nicely.



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user ratings (31)
3.5
great


Comments:Add a Comment 
Koris
Staff Reviewer
November 10th 2021


21403 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Bit of a quickie review, but I liked this quite a bit. Definitely my favorite of hers since Unrepentant Geraldines

brandontaylor
November 11th 2021


1228 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

nice review. everything on here is competent and well-performed, but is just missing a certain spark that she had in her heyday. im craving something less mature and more fun from her next release

fogza
Contributing Reviewer
November 11th 2021


10001 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Aside from a little clunkiness, the single had me excited, but yeah it's still missing killer moments that were everywhere in her first 5 records.

Koris
Staff Reviewer
November 11th 2021


21403 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

@brandon: Thank you!



And yeah, I get that this isn't the most memorable album or anything. But those early Tori Amos records are really tough acts to follow, and I'm fine with knowing that she'll probably never reach those heights again

fogza
Contributing Reviewer
November 11th 2021


10001 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Oh for sure, I know we're not getting another BFP. A TVAB would be nice though

hamid95
November 11th 2021


1211 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

Great to see this getting a review, I wouldn't have had time to write one before December.



Pretty much agreed - this is the best of her recent output, after the back-to-basics resurgence with Unrepentant Geraldines (maybe I'll do a review for that one instead).



Some beautiful stuff here, it's the first Tori album in decades to feel like it has something urgent to say. Reminds me most of American Doll Posse or Abnormally Attracted to Sin, except more cohesive and (with the latter in mind), uh, better.

Gyromania
November 11th 2021


37225 Comments


She rly needs better cover art lol

FreudsPocketCanoe
November 11th 2021


104 Comments


Good review. I feel like Little Earthquakes ruined her later works for me, none of it has scratched that profound, emotionally devastating itch and I can't give her matured work a fair listen :/

I spent a lot of my life in Cornwall. The only good things about it are pastries, desserts and the landscape.

fogza
Contributing Reviewer
November 11th 2021


10001 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

"She rly needs better cover art lol"



I don't normally care too much about the cover, but you have a point

hamid95
November 11th 2021


1211 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

her cover arts have been awful for like fifteen years lol

Unrepentant Geraldines is the worst for me - 'mom who listens to NPR and thinks graffiti is neat'

Jethro42
November 11th 2021


18281 Comments


i'll have to give this a spin.

fogza
Contributing Reviewer
November 11th 2021


10001 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

"her cover arts have been awful for like fifteen years lol"



[2]

Koris
Staff Reviewer
November 11th 2021


21403 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Yeah, her album art has been pretty bland for a long time; even a lot of her classic albums really aren't impressive in that department. I guess I just liked this cover because it's a good representation of the scenery around Tori that inspired her to write the album in the first place

hamid95
November 12th 2021


1211 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

Boys for pele and Choirgirl have outstanding visuals, tho. Gimme body-size-scanner and pig-breastfeeding Tori any day of the week.

fogza
Contributing Reviewer
November 12th 2021


10001 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

I always loved the artwork for under the pink too

Koris
Staff Reviewer
November 16th 2021


21403 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Yeah, the art for those is fine. I also like the Little Earthquakes artwork, even if it's quite basic



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