Emiliana Torrini | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Emiliana Torrini 

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Though Emiliana Torrini's latest album, Fisherman's Woman (Rough Trade), mainly reflects her interest in British folk music, it's clear the Italian-Icelandic singer has absorbed a few lessons from her recent excursions into indie pop and mainstream movie music. The disc is definitely a departure from its superb predecessor, Love in the Time of Science (2000), a gorgeous, electronically enhanced album of hooky trip-hop and glistening torch songs, on which Torrini's voice and aesthetic suggested a less eccentric Bjork. Since the release of that record she's cowritten the hypnotic hit "Slow" for Kylie Minogue, sung "Gollum's Song" for the sound track of The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, and both recorded and toured with D.C. lounge bores the Thievery Corporation. Fisherman's Woman seems like a deliberate attempt to move away from that work, but fortunately she's retained her knack for crafting concise, effective melodies and her taste for quirky pop--which keeps the music from becoming too lean or ethereal, despite Dan Carey's sparse production. She conveys a fierce optimism through layers of heartbreak, and her simple phrasing makes the songs transcendent rather than treacly: she uses a flat, relatively hushed tone when she sings the title phrase of "Today Has Been Okay," a song about struggling with loss, and on the title track she evokes a muted blues feeling, imagining she's a fisherman's wife whose husband is off at sea. "Heartstopper" perfectly merges a dark mood and a fighting spirit, as the narrator takes a clear-eyed look at herself: "Another coffee, it's on the house / The 'poor girl' look is on the owner's spouse." David Kitt opens. Thu 6/16, 9 PM, Schubas, 3159 N. Southport, 773-525-2508 or 312-559-1212, $13 in advance, $15 at the door.

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