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Emiliana Torrini finds her own voice on Fisherman’s Woman
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You’d never know from Fisherman’s Woman (Rough Trade), the new album by the Icelandic/Italian singer Emiliana Torrini, just what a wide-ranging workhorse she is. The disc is a stripped-down collection of pretty fireside ballads scored principally for acoustic guitar and Torrini’s voice, which swoops and cracks in a manner reminiscent of Björk. Think Norah Jones for the ice-fishing set. Then take another sip of your latte.

Although Fisherman’s Woman exudes a cozy, lived-in vibe that suggests Torrini (who headlines at the Paradise Lounge this Monday) has been making this sort of music for most of her 27 years, it’s just one side of her. On her 2000 debut, Love in the Time of Science (Virgin), Torrini, with production help from Tears for Fears’ Roland Orzabal, was marketed as a trip-hop torch singer bathed in an accessible, Beth Orton–esque blend of blunted beats and luxuriant synth washes. In 2002, she lent her voice to a track on The Richest Man in Babylon (ESL), a disc by DC’s loungy electronicists Thievery Corporation that cast her in a sexier role. Yet she was better known that year for the Enya-esque "Gollum’s Song," which she sang over the closing credits of The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. And in 2003, she co-wrote "Slow," a single from Kylie Minogue’s Body Language (Capitol) that became a major international hit.

"I think that’s a natural way of evolving," she says over the phone from LA, before a show at the Troubadour. "I think you have to try to evolve away from what you’re doing." The name Björk doesn’t comes up, but it’s clear that she’s tired of the Björk comparisons that were made in the wake of Science, and that Björk is what she’s trying to "evolve away from."

Love in the Time of Science was recorded for a major label in England, and Torrini is the first to admit that the result was a "record that was very confused. You’re doing a first record in a foreign country, and you’re entering a business that’s completely unknown to you, and everybody seems to have a say about everything. You don’t really know how it all works. It takes time to find the people you’re gonna be with for a long time."

For Fisherman’s Woman, she found that person in Dan Carey, the Brixton-based songwriter/producer she wrote "Slow" with. (His professional name is Mr. Dan.) "When I met Dan, I just said to him that I didn’t want any violence or any electronics on this record. I just wanted to write with one guitar or piano and not produce at the same time. That was what I was used to doing instead of just focusing on the songs and letting them be in charge of where they want to go."

She acknowledges that the writing process, which took place at Carey’s studio, was "really difficult," in part because "Dan refuses to come near the melodies and the lyrics. I’m like, ‘Help me!’ And he’s like, ‘Nope.’ " But she describes the recording process as much more relaxed. "We never wrote if we didn’t feel like it. It had to come naturally. We just had long lunches and bottles of wine here and there and a lot of laughing fits and stupidity."

The flip side to the album’s departure from Love in the Time of Science is its well-timed embrace of the sort of organic acoustic sounds currently wooing NPR listeners and Starbucks customers nationwide — artists like Norah Jones, Feist, and Keren Ann. Is another round of burdensome comparisons in store?

She doesn’t seem worried; she doesn’t even seem aware. "I can have months without any music," she laughs, gently deflecting the idea that she was inspired by any of the women with whose work Fisherman’s Woman has been compared — Jolie Holland and A Girl Called Eddy, for two. "My mum always makes fun of me, because I’m quite silent. I quite like a lot of silence."

Emiliana Torrini headlines this Monday, June 20, at the Paradise Lounge, 969 Commonwealth Avenue in Boston; call (617) 562-8814.

Issue Date: June 17 - 23, 2005
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