Were it not for the fact that she doesn’t play her own guitar and, you know, that she’s sort of famous and unattainable, I’d almost consider changing my sexual orientation for Emiliana Torrini.
Half of her appeal lies in her background. Born to an Icelandic mother and Italian father, Torrini grew up in Iceland and sang soprano in a choir until the age of fifteen, when she began opera school. What shows more prominently in her current style of music, though, is what her parents raised her on: a steady stream of Leonard Cohen, love songs and classical music. Combining her minimalist, graceful approach to songwriting with an innocent, childlike Icelandic accent makes for a purely blissful picture.
Fisherman’s Woman is Torrini’s first record since 1999’s light electronic album, Love in the Time of Science. One label change later (she left One Little Indian to join Rough Trade), she’s transformed herself into a singer-songwriter of the purest variety, sounding more like Bjork covering Nick Drake than a woman among the ranks of Esthero and Goldfrapp.
Though Torrini reaches a point of inspiration that permits her a bit of a mid-album lull (specifically at the seventh track, “Next Time Around”), Fisherman’s Woman begins and ends on strong notes, encompassing twelve tracks into a heartfelt, well-communicated letter of optimism to someone she had lost in real life. And while it’s likely that the standout track is expected to be the Bill Callahan-penned “Honeymoon Child,” Torrini’s most soothing moments actually occur when her songs incorporate either a dark and sedate vocal quality or subtle dissonance on guitar — prime examples of each being “Serenade” and “Snow.” In fact, “Serenade” as a concluding track finds the singer in her simplest state, cooing just more than a whisper in a manner that is much more haunting yet angelic than sexually suggestive — quite refreshing for a solo female artist of her caliber.
Admittedly, the lyrics on Fisherman’s Woman get a little tired, particularly when considering how many ways there are to say “I miss you.” But the effort is genuine, and coping with death by imagining the vanished as a traveling fisherman leads to music that plays like a dream.