Native Invader, Tori Amos' fifteenth album and follow-up to 2014's Unrepentant Geraldines is an intense feast of melody, protest, tenderness and pain. In the summer of 2016, she took a road trip through North Carolina's Smoky Mountains. The intention was to reconnect with the stories and songlines of her mother's family, who were from the North Carolina and Tennessee Smoky Mountain area. That winter, two seismic events knocked the plan off its axis. The fall out from the US Election. And in January her mother, Mary Ellen Amos, suffered a severe stroke leaving her unable to speak. The complex influence of America's alt-right Super PACs, lobbyists and think tanks informs much of the tension in Native Invader.
"It wasn't going to be a record of pain, blood and bone when I began," she says. "It wasn't going to be a record of division. But the Muses 9 insisted that I listened and watched the conflicts that were traumatising the nation and write about those raw emotions. Hopefully people will find strength and resilience within the songs to give them the energy to survive the storms that we are currently in." The sense of semantic distortion permeates Native Invader. Amos talks of the need to form a "militia of the mind" in the face of national lies. Hidden messages and subliminal protests lend themselves perfectly to Amos's natural playfulness. For all its dark themes, this album is a joy to absorb, full of warmth and puzzles.
Revealing the inspiration behind lead track, "Cloud Riders," Amos says: "Before the Storm, at 4:22 AM, I saw a shooting star. Some Storms are electrifying but some Storms are deadly. Life Changing. Some resolve themselves, some don't. Conflicts can be that way. You don't know how a conflict is going to play out when you are in the middle of it. And the one thing I have learned is that when the Cloud Riders are coming, they cannot be outrun."