Sunday, November 17, 2013

Music Review: Emilíana Torrini's 'Tookah'

I recently got a music review published in the Reykjavík Grapevine (the English language newspaper in Iceland), and I thought I'd share the text here for those of you who might not be able to access their weird PDF.

“Tookah”: Made for the Moment

Emilíana Torrini’s new album “Tookah” is brimming with her signature sound: quiet vocals, smooth orchestrations, subtle beats, guitar pickings, and romanticized lyrics. But it also goes in new directions that keep the album feeling current.

Fans of Emilíana will be comforted by the familiar softness of songs like “Caterpillar” and “Autumn Sun”. But that familiarity seems bland when compared to a stand out track like “When Fever Breaks”. At seven and a half minutes, it’s an epic half-structured half–improv song, slowing building pressure over time. Being at the brink of emotions, Torrini intones “desire is rage/ rage is desire” and “I want to kill you with my fire”. The track, although intense, could be pushed even further. Would this fever break in a live performance?

The most successful tracks on “Tookah” are the ones with the catchy hooks and dance beats, such as “Speed of Dark” and “Blood Red”. Torrini recently experimented with synthesizers, and it shows. “Speed” could be a club hit; a remix would easily entice partygoers to dance. Her simple and unadorned voice is a great contrast to the processed drums and synths, resulting in Kate Bush-meets-Depeche Mode.  There is a catchiness recalling Torrini’s earlier “Jungle Drum” without the twee cuteness.

In “Speed of Dark”, there is a line: “life is just a flicker in the universe”. And that, in its essence, is the album. “Tookah” is a collection of cool and sensual songs made for the moment. Enjoy them now, because in the grand scheme of the universe, these songs are a flickering star.

Nathan Hall is a composer and artist, and a Fulbright Fellow to Iceland.

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