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Emiliana Torrini - Me and Armini

Released on Rough Trade Records, 9/9/08

Listening to Me and Armini, Emiliana Torrini’s third release since her breach into the pop world, I am immediately reminded of Taken by Trees singer Victoria Bergsman, better known as the female vocalist on the hit single “Young Folks” by Peter Bjorn and John. The two do share a label, but while Bergsman is from Sweden, Torrini is half-Icelandic, half-Italian and spent a fair amount of her summers in Germany. Perhaps it is more the tentative singing style that both employ; certain amounts of restraint that surpass shyness and merge with a coyness that is both compelling and downright stressful.

It is almost as if both singers struggle to produce the air the force the words from their trembling lips. While with Bergsman I found this push and pull to be quite intriguing, with Torrini it feels slightly more lost, as if she is still struggling to find a home within her sound, desperate to find a genre to cocoon within.

Me and Armini opens with “Fireheads”, a jazzy-bohemian song with touches of the folk-jam elements that have been popularized as of late -- like a cross between Regina Spektor and Vetiver. It is an easy introduction to the sound of Torrini -- very palatable -- something both your mom and your local Urban Outfitters may be playing at the very same time. Then Torrini launches into the title track, “Me and Armini”, a dub-dancehall number a la Lily Allen that heavily borrows from the Dawn Penn reggae standard “You Don’t Love Me (No No No)”, so much so that on my first listen through I mistook “Me and Armini” as a loose cover of the classic song. Next comes “Birds”, and again we are taken back to fingerpicking folk and cautious vocal cadence. Guess what happens next? Back to Jamaica with “Heard it All Before”, a rhythmic salute to popularized dancehall and bad break-ups.

This all makes a little more sense when we look behind the scenes to producer/collaborator Dan Carey who has recently worked with stadium-filling, pop pleasers Franz Ferdinand, Hot Chip, and Kylie Minogue. It seems that Carey is trying to cover all bases at once, to make a very stylistically varied album so as to appeal to as many people as possible. While this may be a clever marketing move, and while there may be some real moments of beauty on the album, in terms of continuity and stylistic approach, Me and Armini is a little too sundry and far too produced for my own taste.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars