Tori Amos 

American Doll Posse (Epic)

Tori Amos is the blue-chip stock of the female singer-songwriter boom of the '90s: Investing in her art has only become more expensive (read demanding) over the years. With hooks disappearing, her albums have grown longer, while her lyrics have turned increasingly oblique.

More memorable than 2005's The Beekeeper, American Doll Posse sees Amos taking on a variety of characters over 23 tracks. Sporting a different outfit for each "doll," she gives us Isabel the indignant politico photographer, Clyde the wounded soul-seeker, Pip the fierce rubber enthusiast, Santa the glitzy sensualist, as well as Amos herself. Most of them, are pissed off at dumb guys.

With the loudest guitar solos ever heard on an Amos record, tunes like Santa's "You Can Bring Your Dog" evoke '70s AM rock. Pip's bouncy "Teenage Hustling," a tale of self-loathing, is the disc's showstopper. Soaked in somber strings, Clyde's "Girl Disappearing" matches Leonard Cohen for moroseness. And removing the wig for "Big Wheel," Amos reclaims the "M.I.L.F." chant from the meatheads in American Pie. She is mother; hear her roar.

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