Tori Amos is known for big sentiments and broad strokes, but she has abandoned the bluntness of her early work recently in favor of a more pensive, mature sound. "The Beekeeper," her follow-up to 2002's "Scarlet's Walk," is an 80-minute trek through nature, from gardens and seasons to birds and butterflies. (Speaking of nature, the expanded edition of the disc includes a packet of "flower and plant seeds.") The album flows from song to song -- a long journey rather than a series of distinct tracks.
Lyrically, Amos sticks with her abstract poetry, focusing on simple imagery captured in short phrases. But at times she seems almost more concerned with the words as sounds than ideas -- repeating "c'mon" over and over in the escalatingly feverish "Witness." Even with her piano and organ lines swelling under her songs, it is her vocal melodies that prove most striking. Phrases that read awkwardly on paper -- "beneath your firmaments" ("Jamaica Inn") or "carnivorous vegetarian" ("Barons of Suburbia") -- ring smoothly in the ear.
Amos presents direct narratives as well. In the dreamy "Ribbons Undone," she tells a straightforward tale of growing up, and her lulling overlapping vocals in "Sleeps With Butterflies" give her lyrics ("I'm not like the girls that you've known / But I believe I'm worth coming home to") a carefree feel.
The highlight of the album comes when Irish singer Damien Rice joins Amos on "The Power of Orange Knickers." Their voices are in perfect sync, with his low register mimicking her every warble like a shadow. As elsewhere, Amos's flowing piano lines and light percussion offset her captivating vocals, bringing her imagery to the forefront and uniting the album.
-Catherine P. Lewis