Review Summary: Emiliana fuses a multitude of new influences into her folk melodies and comes away with a winner.
I can’t begin to really explain my love of female singer/songwriters. There is just something soothing about female vocals when they’re done right. In fact, there are certain genres that I can only listen to when there’s a female vocalist; that list includes most pop, country, trip hop and mellow acoustic rock. One of those female vocalists that I’ve been following is Emiliana Torrini. I first got into her shortly after the release of her fourth album, Love in the Time of Science
which was a great trip hop album in large part due to her voice, but also due to the quality music. It was unfortunate that her following album, Fisherman’s Woman
, turned out to be a stripped down folk-inspired acoustic album that lacked the variation of its predecessor and was fairly redundant. I don’t know if maybe she felt the same way or if someone else let her know, but she has taken the good parts of her last album and injected a variety of other influences making for the strongest album of her last three releases.
While she doesn’t return to her trip hop past, she does introduce a variety of other influences into her folk-inspired sound. There’s the blues-based riff of the opening track, the upbeat reggae twist of the title track as well a healthy dose of 60s and 70s inspired rock throughout. I was surprised the first time I heard “Jungle Drum” which takes more than a small influence from Johnny Cash
and benefits from it. It is very upbeat with a dirty guitar sound and a catchy chorus. Another stand out track that takes a cue from classic rock is “Gun” which has a groovy 60s psychedelic guitar sound, and reminds me of Jefferson Airplane
because it has the same kind of warped, dark vibe as “White Rabbit”. Despite these new influences, Emiliana still has folk music in her heart and it is able to shine through.
“Birds” is the first song to really return to the folk influence as it features Emiliana gently playing her acoustic guitar and softly singing while the sound of birds can barely be heard in the background. The difference between these new folk-inspired songs and ones from her past is that these new ones are dynamic. “Birds” gradually builds into a psychedelic Pink Floyd
-inspired section complete with electric guitar drenched in echo-effect and keyboards, but it settles down again in time to close with Emiliana’s crooning and her acoustic guitar. There is also the two-minute “Hold Heart” that is strictly folk-based but it is still a strong track due to it being the only one of its kind on the album as opposed to one of many on the last album. It is also a beautiful song that features just Emiliana and her acoustic guitar while she makes excellent use of her vocal range to carry it to the end.
In short, Emiliana has expanded her sound and has pulled it off wonderfully. Her guitar playing is excellent whether she is playing a dirty 60s rock-inspired piece or a gentle folk melody. Those riffs and other musical ideas are only made stronger by the unassailable presence of Emiliana and her voice. She can go from quiet singing to energetic sections where she traverses the spectrum of her range with ease as well as easily conveying a variety of emotions including passive-aggressive anger on “Ha Ha” to heartbreaking vulnerability on “Bleeder”. It seems that she took just about every influence she had and mixed them all together and still managed to maintain a cohesive and enjoyable album.
It bears repeating that through out this album’s duration there are many musical influences that add plenty of variation to her folk-inspired nucleus. This is important because these influences combined with a multitude of sounds and the capable vocals of Emiliana have helped her to create the strongest and catchiest album of her last three releases. For those that were a little disappointed with her last album, this one should bring you back around despite the continued lack of trip hop influences. It is catchy, varied, and has the spirit and feel of that great album combined with the folk-influence of the previous one along with so many new ideas.