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Tori Amos 

American Doll Posse (Epic)

Tori Amos is the blue-chip stock from the '90s boom of woman singer-songwriters: If you tuned in early, she'll pay dividends for the rest of your life. Since she firmly established herself as the cooler older sister of all piano-grrls, however, getting in has required a bigger investment: Her albums grew longer, hooks got scarcer, and her lyrics became increasingly oblique. But four new friends/characters help her out on American Doll Posse. Amos fully realizes each of the Dolls through her own blog, the power of song — and, of course, a different outfit. They're Isabel the indignant politico photographer, Clyde the wounded soul-seeker, Pip the fierce rubber enthusiast, Santa the glitzy sensualist and even Amos herself. Most of them are pissed-off at dumb guys. With the loudest guitar solos that she's ever had, tunes like Santa's "You Can Bring Your Dog" evoke '70s-era AM-radio rock. Pip's bouncy "Teenage Hustling" is the disc's set-stopper of self-loathing. Clyde's a morose songstress to match Leonard Cohen in the somber-strings of "Girl Disappearing." And Amos takes off the wigs in "Big Wheel," reclaiming the "M.I.L.F." chant from the meatheads in American Pie. Saddle up for a rough ride, and it'll be your most engaging Tori time since Scarlet's Walk. She is mother; hear her roar.

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