4. Tori Amos, Scarlet’s Walk (2002)
While the tragedy of 9/11 led many artists to offer musical responses exploring the aftermath of the event, few were as daring as Scarlet’s Walk. Drawing on her Cherokee heritage and experiences during her 2001 tour, Amos created a “sonic novel” told through the eyes of an alter-ego named Scarlet, exploring a period of America when the nation’s masks— and gloves— were off. Beginning in Los Angeles with the arresting “Amber Waves” and ending in Washington DC with the emotional “Gold Dust”, Amos balanced warm, enveloping melodies with lyrics both pointed and poetic, especially on “Your Cloud” and the title track. The result was an album as soothing as it was thought-provoking, and easily Amos’ best work of the decade.