Image © Rough Trade Records 2005
Image © Kevin Westenberg 2005
Image © Kevin Westenberg 2005
(16 April 2005) Delightful singer / songwriter Emiliana Torrini is part Italian, part Icelandic and lives in Brighton, England. Brought up in Iceland, parallels with her better known compatriot Bjork are inevitable, and indeed there are certainly vocal similarities, sharing, as she does, Bjork's girlish fragility. However, Bjork's fashionable eccentricity is here replaced by something much warmer and more sensual, making Emiliana's latest album Fisherman’s Woman (Rough Trade Records (UK) RTRADCD185, 2005) something of a minimalist triumph.
This short-ish (40 minutes) twelve trackset, on first listen, washes over the listener in a delightful haze of quirky vocals and acoustic instruments. With repeated plays, however, the individual songs--all similar in tone with only subtle variations of light and shade to identify them--begin to reveal their individual treasures, though listeners should be aware that this is not an album for dipping into--it demands playing through in one sitting. Throughout, the core accompaniment is acoustic guitar, coloured by other subtle instrumental variations--a moment of piano or mallet percussion here, and electric guitar or understated drum there. It all works beautifully, with collaborator and producer Dan Carey chiefly responsible for these excellent arrangements.
The charmingly positive "Nothing Brings Me Down" opens proceedings with its distinctive "Dumm dumms,"and pastoral, wordless mid section, followed by the single "Sunny Road," the catchiest piece on the album, with its sing-along chorus. “Snow” is a typically brief, folky piece, before album highlight “Lifesaver”, with it’s insistent guitar and ambient sounds of a boat creaking, and a bluesy vocal from Emiliana. A shimmering electric guitar introduces “Honeymoon Child”. Imagine Bjork singing Nick Drake to get a feel for this lovely song, while “Today has been OK” continues the electric accompaniment, with some delightful piano and percussion.
“Next Time Around”, by the great Sandy Denny, is given a relatively up-tempo full-band treatment, with its piano and gentle drums, a tone which continues on the superb "Heartstopper." A floral acoustic guitar introduces "At least it was," a lovely song about remembering a lost love, including a rare harmony vocal and more of those engaging “dumm, dumms”. This lyrical theme continues in the infinitely sad "Fisherman's Woman," with its dramatic piano and jazzy vocal. "Thinking out loud" has an Eastern European folk feel, while "Serenade" has a multi-tracked vocal, which adds a distinctive, faintly sinister feel to this final track.
Charming, melodic, understated and faintly sad,
this is a stunning piece of work by an artist that thoroughly deserves the increasing audience she seems to be attracting.
Live at The Fleece, Bristol, 28 March 2005.
Emiliana's tour of small UK venues in early Spring 2005 has been a considerable success, and on the basis of her delightful one hour performance at the Fleece in Bristol, it is not difficult to see why.
Essentially presenting the "Fisherman's Woman" album, plus a few extra songs, her band of two guitarists and a percussionist (who doubled on keyboards) effortlessly recreated the intimacy of the album, with the help of a stage full of lit candles. Emiliana herself proved to be a charming, modest and surprisingly funny live performer, though she has a jerky, Joe Cocker-style stance that takes a little getting used to.
Of this quiet, yet spellbinding, performance, "Lifesaver" and "Sunnyroad," in particular, stood out, but the whole concert was so charming it is not difficult to imagine her following increasing very quickly. She is an artist to watch carefully, and to catch live before she hits the big time.--Stephen Lambe in Cheltenham, England