Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Merci Bien, Jessie Torrisi

When I received this disc, it touted Jessie Torrisi as some who played in some NYC bands (Unisex Salon, Laptop, Les Fleurs Tragiques) that I wasn’t familiar with, so I didn’t have any expectations as to what this album would be like. Well, actually, I wasn’t expecting much for this “mystery disc”, but I am happy to report that Torrisi has fashioned a terrific little solo debut (“little” in the sense that it’s a concise 8 song disc that runs just over 30 minutes) with "brujer, brujer."
Torrisi is something of an alt. folk-rock chanteuse, for lack of a better term. Take the marvelous leadoff track, “Hungry Like Me.” Torrisi’s captivating search for someone compatible with her deftly mixes twangy elements (pedal steel) with plucky keyboards (my copy of disc didn’t come with credit list so I’m fishing a little for specific instrumentation).
Love is a common theme throughout the disc. “X In Texas” finds her essaying a busted relationship – one where she wants to “just unbuckle me from you.” It’s another song that boasts a strong, although subtle arrangement, as it well utilizes some subdued horns along with a slide-y guitar line.
Torrisi goes back on the love offensive with “Cannonball.” It’s a jaunty, near-jazzy number that showcases the beguiling way Torrisi sashays around a song. Near the song’s end, she chooses to sing the work “explode” softly, making it all the more effective. “Runaway Train” is another standout track, both with its powerful, percussive arrangement and Torrisi’s emotive singing, which resembles an arty roadhouse version of Chrissie Hynde.
She exudes a playful bittersweet quality in the troubled relationship tune “Stormy Clouds,” which also displays her knack for phrase-turning. She’s particularly adept at using strong natural imagery – in this song, there’s a radiant line: “everything you love bursts into flames”- that reflect her dealings with relationships and love. Moreover, song titles like “Runaway Train” and “Cannonball” reveal a certain physicality to her songwriting, which also works well with her song’s looks at love.
After the sultry soulful “So Many Miles,” the disc wraps up with her most emotionally direct tune, the spare, piano-based “The Brighter Side.” This survivor’s tale is a stirring, and ultimately uplifting, number suggests a more laidback Michelle Shocked (in her gospel mood).
In “Runaway Train,” Torrisi sings: “what’s it going to take to get your attention?” With this thoroughly impressive debut, she certainly has created an attention-grabber. One of the joys of receiving mystery discs is when they turn out to be surprising delights, and "bruler, bruler" is one of the surprisingly delightful discs.

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