My immediate reaction to this record, upon first listen, was that it was simply a continuation of the Dido phenomenon… Which itself was merely a continuation of Portishead, which was more of the Bjork thing, which was a follow-up to the Shirley Bassey thing in the 60’s with all the James Bond music. I’m going to coin a new phrase, and I hope you will all help me spread it to the masses. This type of music will henceforth be known as trip-lounge. Ok? Maybe, in some cases, Spy-trip-lounge. This would be one example of the latter. Emiliana’s voice is heavenly, with a deep tonal resemblance to the aforementioned Bjork. The music is powerful, and yet subdued and intricate. One of the most fun things about this record (for us Americans) is listening to the distinctly British references… You’ll know what I mean when you listen to it. And listen to it, you will.
The first track, "To Be Free," is very much reminiscent of a James Bond love theme, with some beautiful muted piano bits and drums that are not prevalent, but set the tone for the groove. Emiliana’s placement of vocals, and her slurs, is wonderfully artistic. I really appreciate the way she refers to us as men as "boys." "Wednesday’s Child" is filled with beautiful organ playing and richly layered vocals. This track is full of spacey effects and sonic goings-on in the background, but not so much as to detract from her vocal presence. "Baby Blue" is the first distinctive use of guitar on this record, with the drums setting the stage for a huge James Bond-esque sound. The lyrics are laced with beautiful imagery and clever word plays. "Between the pleasure and the pain (wishing your life away), No more sinister than sane (keeping your life away), between the flicker and the flame (no one can explain), baby blue is born again." With its Speak’N’Spell tonal additions, "Dead Things" is a very low-beat track. It is very reminiscent of Bjork in her dreamier moments. This song tricks you into thinking it is going to be a sleeper, and then it breaks out into a tremendously well-choreographed noise break, resplendent with feedback and odd samples. A+ for the noise break. "Unemployed In Summertime" is a humorous look at a somewhat odd relationship, and the joys of being young. It is a very pleasant track to listen to, and it makes me smile genuinely. "Easy" is a pleasantly mid-tempo track filled with Stevie Wonder sounding clavichord, with a refreshing chorus.
On "Fingertips," Emiliana retains the wonderfully lissome feeling of the record. This track is set apart by its fantastic trashy drum sound, and the extraneous noises that build it’s bounteous texture. "Telepathy" is the heaviest track on the record, complete with an interesting rhythm line, and lots of distortion on the guitars. Despite all that, it retains its James Bond feeling. This record out-Portisheads Portishead, and I think that is important to note. Far more intricate than many other releases of this genre, "Telepathy" is charged with an operatic emotion. "Tuna Fish" seems to be an observation on how life slows down when you notice the minute details of life, and how seemingly insignificant things can mean so much. "Guess it’s time for a walk, just to read some license plates. What is Autumn doing sneaking up on me?" "Summerbreeze" is beautifully simple, being comprised mostly of acoustic guitar and vocals, with just a hint of keyboards in the background. It’s the kind of song that sets the soul completely at ease. "Sea People" is a very short track that wraps the album up nicely and preserves the feeling of serenity that prevails on this record.
The over-all tone of this record is very mellow, yet crisp, with only a few tracks that stand out as louder and more attention grabbing. The songs seem very sad, but each of them holds a part that is somewhat joyous, or perhaps celebratory. The production on the album is very clear and pristine. The thing that sets this record apart from others of its ilk, such as the Dido release, is the lack of reliance on the presence of such "celebrities" as Eminem, and other fly by night musical phenomenon. It is a wonderfully well put together record, sonically and lyrically. Virgin Records was wise to pick this easy to listen to record up, and allow us Yanks to hear it. It is a record for those late 20’s or mid 30’s folks who are not lame enough to listen to Kenny G and his contemporaries, but are looking for something that is easy and interesting on the ears.
- To Be Free
- Wednesday’s Child
- Baby Blue
- Dead Things
- Unemployed In Summertime
- Tuna Fish
- Sea People