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Emiliana Torrini: 'Fireheads'

Icelandic acts like Bjork and Sigur Ros have earned the Nordic nation a reputation for strange, elfin rock. Folk-pop singer Emiliana Torrini, who grew up just outside of Reykjavik, hopes to change that. On her latest CD, Me and Armini, Torinni draws from a refreshing hodgepodge of influences, mixing ska and bossa nova with folk, trip-hop and psych-rock for a sometimes scorching, sometimes heartbreaking collection of songs.

In the opener, "Fireheads," Torrini does her best Beth Orton, with a simple guitar groove and muted rhythms backing her sultry but innocent voice. The title cut that follows, "Me and Armini," takes a sudden and unexpected turn toward reggae-flavored pop, before shifting again with what starts out as the album's breeziest folk track, "Birds," a song that eventually melts into a soothing, psychedelic jam reminiscent of Meddle-era Pink Floyd.

"Gun" is Me and Armini's darkest and most distorted track, with a crunchy, bluesy guitar riff drenched in reverb, as Torrini sings, "Every day I see you looking in / I'll be the smoothest thing to touch your skin / You're longing to be loved, but you're alone / And your longing makes you shiver to the bone." It's a smoldering slow burn with a smokey haze that lingers even as the album makes yet another shift to the gospel harmonies of "Beggar's Prayer" and the electro-pop beats of "Dead Duck."

Emiliana Torrini has been writing and recording music in her native Iceland for about 10 years, and has won several awards there, but is still searching for a major audience in the U.S. She sang the end theme for Peter Jackson's film Lord Of The Rings: The Two Towers when Bjork backed out of the project. Torinni's song "Beggars Prayer" was also featured on the TV series Grey's Anatomy.

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Robin Hilton is a producer and co-host of the popular NPR Music show All Songs Considered.