Emiliana Torrini – Rarities

Release Date 20/09/2010 (One Little Indian)

By Steve Gilliver

Sounding somewhat like a straighter version of Björk, Emiliana Torrini is perhaps Iceland’s second most well reknowned female singer.

Though she couldn’t get arrested over here, her recent single ‘Jungle Drum’ was a big smash on the continent, reaching number 1 in several countries. You know what that means – it’s cash-in time!

Comprising 28 tracks, Rarities collates a number of her early releases on One Little Indian, many of which are freely available. Disappointingly, it contains none of her earlier Iceland-only material, which is genuinely rare.

Overall, it presents a very chilled out sound, revealing her bleak acoustic album ‘Fisherman’s Woman’, released in 2005, to have been a fairly major departure. Misleading title aside, it contains some absolute treats. Conveniently, they are all found on CD1, which opens with ‘Dead Things’, taken, like most of the best offerings here, from her international debut album Love in the Time of Science. Somehow it manages to combine strings, beeps, electronic beats, feedback and distortion and still sound coherent. Majestic, in fact.

Elsewhere, the more soulful ‘Wednesday’s Child’ strongly recalls early Sadé, which may not necessarily sound appealing, but should do. ‘To Be Free’, meanwhile, though sonically uninvolving, can lay claim to the finest lyric, Torrini, at once confrontational and vulnerable, reflecting candidly on some painful episodes from a failed relationship.

On a couple of occasions, songs burst into life quite thrillingly. Both ‘If You Go Away’ and ‘Easy’ boast massive choruses that seem to come from nowhere, sharply drawing the distracted listener back in. At the opposite end of the scale, few listening to ‘Weird Friendless Kid’ will surely be too surprised to learn that it was a B-side.

Torrini’s voice is quite compatible with dance music, and that is no better illustrated than in the Future Shock Vocal Mix of ‘To Be Free’, the best of a very mixed bunch of remixes.

CD2 is a much less rewarding listen. It is noteworthy for only two reasons: 1) Torrini’s use of the very British phrase “playing silly buggers” on ‘Unemployed in Summertime’ – which recreates, intentionally or not, the boredom of that particular situation; and 2) The Dreemhouse Unemployed Club Mix of the same track. A garage remix full of mindless “Yeahs” and “Come ons”, it sounds both dreadful and dreadfully dated.

Rarities undoubtedly contains too many remixes and re-workings – three tracks appear five or more times in different versions. Happily, selective downloading/uploading/playlisting has abrogated the need for repeated skip button pressing. And it’s not all bad news. The ‘In The Sunshine’ and ‘In The Rain’ acoustic versions of ‘Easy’ offer a weather-specific listening choice. Which option will be more appropriate for Manchester this coming autumn, I wonder…

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