“With her haunting solo debut Little Earthquakes, Tori Amos carved the template for the female singer/songwriter movement of the ‘90s.” SH As both a classically trained pianist and a singer with “the attitude of an alternative rocker,” JD she was “a sometimes spacey, new-age chanteuse with a flair for cynical satire, and a raging punk who could also play the flighty faerie princess.” JD Her “delicate, prog rock piano work and confessional, poetically quirky lyrics invited close emotional connection” SH and “stressed emotion over technique.” JD.
“As the disc’s ‘Tori-in-a-box’ cover art evocatively illustrated, Amos would never be an artist who could be pigeonholed, stereotyped or walled in in any way. She proudly flaunted the many conflicting sides of her artistic persona, leaving listeners to sort out what it all means.” JD
“Amos grew up in Baltimore, the outspoken daughter of a Scottish Methodist preacher and a mother who was part Cherokee. She was a child prodigy on the piano, entered the Peabody Institute at age 5 and was expelled at 11. In the late ‘80s, she fronted a pop-metal band called Y Kant Tori Read. The group released one album that flopped, prompting Amos to move to England in 1990. There, she reinvented herself as a solo artist and began recording her debut, drawing inspiration from a number of heroines ranging from Kate Bush to Patti Smith.” JD
“Working on several tracks with producer and then-boyfriend Eric Rosse, Amos kept the sound spare but tuneful, mostly focusing on her fluid piano playing and soaring vocals. Like Leonard Cohen before her, she proved that these two simple sonic elements can pack as powerful a wallop as Nirvana’s crushing guitar, bass and drums. (Shortly after the album’s release, she paid homage to the Seattle trio with her own striking cover of ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit,’ which none other than Kurt Cobain hailed for its creative reimagining of his song).” JD
“But what really elevated Little Earthquakes from similarly minimalist singer-songwriter, adult-alternative fare was its songs' emotional content.” JD Its “intimacy is uncompromising, intense, and often far from comforting” SH as “Amos tackles hot-button topics such as gender stereotyping, religious conservatism, male hegemony and rape.” JD Her “musings…were just as likely to encompass rage, sarcasm, and defiant independence as pain or tenderness” SH and she did so “in a frank, unflinching, and alternately poignant and heartbreakingly funny manner;” JD “sometimes, it all happened in the same song.” SH
“The apex of that intimacy is the harrowing Me and a Gun;” SH it is “the album’s most striking track, and the one most indicative of the artist's honest-at-all-costs approach.” JD “Amos strips away all the music, save for her own voice, and confronts the listener with the story of her own real-life rape; the free-associative lyrics come off as a heart-wrenching attempt to block out the ordeal.” SH (‘Me and a gun/And a man/On my back/But I haven't seen Barbados/So I must get out of this’).
“Crucify is a brutal look in the mirror of self-examination (‘Every finger in the room is pointing at me/I wanna spit in their faces.../Why do we crucify ourselves/Every day I crucify myself’). Girl chronicles the never-ending search for a strong feminine identity (‘She’s been everybody else’s girl/Maybe someday she’ll be her own’).” JD
“Little Earthquakes isn’t always so stomach-churning, but it never seems less than deeply cathartic; it’s the sound of a young woman (like the protagonist of Silent All These Years) finally learning to use her own voice – sort of the musical equivalent of Mary Pipher’s Reviving Ophelia.” SH That song “is a furious protest against an unnamed man (her father? a lover?) who has kept her down for far too long (‘Well, I love the way we communicate/Your eyes focus on my funny lip shape/Let's hear what you think of me now but baby don’t look up/The sky is falling’).” JD
“That’s why Amos draws strength from her relentless vulnerability, and that’s why the constantly shifting emotions of the material never seem illogical – Amos simply delights in the frankness of her own responses, whatever they might be.” SH “Like a great, soulful blues artist, Amos finds catharsis from personal pain in her music. But like the best rock ‘n’ rollers (Cobain among them), she entertains, inspires and energizes while she’s doing it. And the impact of her songs is indeed like the ‘little earthquakes’ referenced in the title.” JD
“Though her subsequent albums were often very strong, Amos would never bare her soul quite so directly (or comprehensibly) as she did here, nor with such consistently focused results. Little Earthquakes is the most accessible work in Amos’ catalog, and it’s also the most influential and rewarding.” SH