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Tori Amos Night of the Hunters Grammophon Records

We’d hang out with Tori Amos any time, mostly because we’re not sure what would happen. Will she make us a cup of tea or cut us with a short sword? It’s even money. You never know.

That same sense of anticipatory uncertainty is also what makes Amos such a captivating record artist. Where is she going to take us this go-round? Will it be just Tori and a piano this time? Will it be rock-band Tori? Perchance electro-pop Tori?

“Night of the Hunter” finds Amos in classical mode, refreshingly stripped of all the electronics of modern music. On this record, her skilled piano playing and singing is only backed by haunting and/or whimsical stringed and woodwind instrumentation.

Just in time for Renaissance-festival season.

And it’s a perfect fit for Amos. Who else could you picture performing the unofficial, almost-cinematic score for people gussied up in the crushed-velvet and corset-clad revelry and chivalry that takes hold in the weeks leading up to Halloween?

We dare anyone who hears this record to not want to grow a handlebar mustache, wear a steampipe hat and sip whiskey at the local saloon.

Natalia Kills Perfectionist Cherrytree Recording Studios

Listen to the top three pop divas ruling the charts right now — Lady Gaga, Rihanna and Katy Perry — and you’ll pretty much have heard all the elements that make up the new electro-pop singer jockeying to be number four.

“Perfectionist” has so much of a sonic and stylistic overlap with the three aforementioned singers that it’s difficult to see the album as anything other than a calculated stab at whatever the hot thing is right now.

To her credit, “Perfectionist” is a solid effort despite its too-familiar sound. Kills has a visual and lyrical edge comparable to a toned-down Gaga. It’s almost like she doesn’t have the desire — or the budget — to push it to really adventurous territory. And it’s probably no coincidence that one of Gaga’s producers, Martin “Cherry Cherry Boom Boom” Kierszenbaum, is all over half the tracks on the album.

Sonically, Kills stakes her claim to safer electro-pop territory, churning out the same brand of slickly produced beats, synths and sterilized instrumentation already familiar to anyone who picked up the last two records by Rihanna or Perry, either of whom could have easily been attributed to the track “Love is a Suicide.”

Kills might have an edge if she dives deeper into her goth sensibilities displayed on tracks such as “Zombie” and “Acid Anne.” Otherwise, she is trying to elbow her way into an electro-pop party that is starting to get overcrowded.

VNV Nation Automatic Anachron

After playing around with dark sounds and imagery on the last two albums (2007’s “Judgment” and 2009’s “Of Faith, Power and Glory”), British/Irish synth-pop/EBM duo VNV Nation have ventured back into more light-hearted territory — for them at least.

Many of the tracks on “Automatic,” a concept album embracing ideals around the industrialization and technology of late-1930s America, overflow with optimism and infectious rhythms and melodies that echo early-’80s new wave, especially on tracks like “Resolution,” “Radio” and “Gratitude.”

Longtime fans of the group need not fear. As always, VNV still has some propulsive gothic bombast up its sleeves. “Control” and “Steamline” are brilliantly dark and danceable. The band also retains its gift for heartfelt introspection on the romantic-sounding epic “Nova.”

“Automatic” is a welcome return to form for a group with a dedicated and loyal international following.


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