Archive for the ‘tropicalia’ tag
Thanks to 2010’s Setting EP, relative newcomers Jesse Cohen and Eric Emm– known together as Tanlines– proved that they are capable of making first-rate dance tracks. However, they still had to prove themselves on their debut album. Yes, hopes were high for the full-length Mixed Emotions; and, unlike the unfortunate sensation after which they were named (seriously, try rocking those things on vacation in a strapless bridesmaid dress), Tanlines don’t disappoint.
Lead single “Brothers” is the album’s opening track, and it sets the scene beautifully. It shows what Tanlines do best, striking that delicate balance between pretty melody and party danceability. However, the song also marks a noticeable shift in the band’s sound; “Brothers” is far better produced and features a darker, sweeping, more evocative type of new wave than anything we’ve heard from them before. Its stirring emotion and its catchiness combined make it one of the very best singles of the year thus far, easy.
The buoyant “All of Me” is a quick and refreshing change, offering up all peppy pop, all the time. It’s one of many examples on the album of a chorus that will be stuck in your head for weeks– but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. “Green Grass” is rich with a driving riff, and “Abby” is softer and more comforting. Nearly each song could be its own standout single.
Silly me. I thought Tropicalia – that magical 1960′s-conceived blend of samba, rock, and various Afro-Brazilian flavors – had said all it had to say by the late 1970′s. I should have realized that it would beget offspring: that while founders like Gilberto Gil went into disco and reggae, and Baden Powell passed away, others would pick up the baton and do something new with it.
Maciel Salu’s album, Mundo, is a chip off the old block. Its sound, though rooted in Pernambuco, is also often reminiscent of songs like “Canto de Xango” from Vinicius de Moraes and Baden Powell’s classic album Afro-Samba, characterized by its use of fast-paced call-and-response vocal lines set to a usually blistering samba beat. Songs like “Casa Amarela” and “Minha Alagoana” got me singing the refrains along with his backup singers just like I did when I heard “Xica Da Silva” for the first time.
But you can’t stop there. To say Mundo is a “modern” take on Vinicius’s samba-bossa is a gross oversimplification. You’ll hear the rhythms of regional northeast Brazilian styles such as Pernambuco, Frevo, Maracatu, and even a bit of Afrobeat in and out of the entire album. Salu even goes so far as to pepper standard Brazilian instruments with bits of Klezmerian fiddle and Prohibition-era muted trumpet. It’s an electric combination: unmistakably modern in its unique synthesis of different styles, yet even more appealing than it would be otherwise because of its kinship with Brazil’s golden era. Other than the couple songs that are just pretty good (I wouldn’t go so far as to call them misses), Mundo is a hit from beginning to end. My personal favorite, right now? “Casa de Rabeca.” It’s a bizarre blend of forro and hints of bluegrass, of all things, punctuated by a virtuosic, cascading bassline. As for how I’ll feel tomorrow, I haven’t the slightest idea which song I’ll prefer. But I’ll definitely still be listening.
The whole world is wondering (or should be wondering): “What’s coming out of Rio?” A better question might be, “what hasn’t been coming out of Rio?” While the city – Brazil’s second largest, after Sao Paulo – does not possess the deep, immediate Afro-Brazilian musical roots one more often associates with Bahia, its music is unmistakably grounded in those same Afro-Portuguese strains that define the country’s musical DNA. I could spend a lifetime talking about Bahian genres – really, they’re more like the genres of Brazil itself due to the infusion of African strains in its music – but today let’s focus on Rio as of late. Axe, maracatu, and candomble will have to wait for their own AudioCred spotlight.
Rio emerged as a city within the American cultural consciousness with the advent of major bossa nova composers. Baden Powell, Vinicius de Moraes, and, later, Tom Jobim (writer of the too-ubiquitous “Girl From Ipanema”) spearheaded this revolution – “bossa nova” means “new beat,” which referred to the rhythmic change musicians added to the traditional samba beat. One might easily have labeled the new characteristics of their songs comparatively slight changes to samba, which isn’t far off the mark. Samba provides the heart of what came to be associated with a “Rio beat,” and it is no different with bossa nova. We Americans tend to hold bossa more front-and-center in our minds because we know the bossa canon much better than the classics of samba – a real shame, as the samba library is in my opinion deeper and more representative of a “Brazilian sound.”
Samba continues to inform the new music coming out of Rio – and much of Brazil, for that matter. Seu Jorge is one of the city’s most internationally recognizable stars. His rise to fame attracted the attention of more than just producers and musicologists; that he grew up in a favela outside Rio was a popular subject of biographers. His influences are unmistakably MPB (“Música Popular Brasileira” / “Popular Brazilian Music”) and American soul & funk – he cites Stevie Wonder as a prominent influence, for example. He also cites the samba schools of Rio (whose most famous appearances come in parades during Carnaval on Mardi Gras) as another significant contributor to his style. His first album, Samba Esporte Fino (released outside Brazil as Carolina) was a blast from the good old Tropicalia past, with an added layer of funk for emphasis. My favorite track from the album was “Carolina.” I was delighted to find out recently that I wasn’t the only one in the US listening; two times so far I’ve heard it playing in Brooklyn bars - for good reason, it’s a fantastic, bumping track.
His next album, Cru, featured a less bombastic, stripped down sound. It was a departure from his earlier, pop-centered work, though no less acclaimed. Really, it’s much more of a singer-songwriter type LP than his first one. ”Tive Razao” was the track that stuck with me, especially the strummed, almost ukulele-like guitar over the initial chant.
Then he turned around completely and released a set of Portuguese language David Bowie covers, of all things. Well, it wasn’t completely out of left field – the LP was commissioned by Wes Anderson, who likes such flavors of quirk, for his film The Life Aquatic, in which Jorge played the troubadour-like character Pelé Dos Santos. I actually like his cover of “Lady Stardust” better than the original.
So, he went in different directions. But to me, the moral of the story is that Rio never left Seu Jorge – it just decided to add a couple other friends to the party… as is the nature of the global sound.
He recently returned to the funk-heavy MPB style with Musicas Para Churrascos (“Music for Barbeques”) – in which a variety of characters dance, party, and chase different female characterizations around. To give you an idea, the songs’ titles range from “A Vizinha” (neighbor) “Vizinha”, “Meu parceiro” (“my partner”), “Amiga da Minha Mulher” (“Friend of My Woman”), and “Japonesa” (“Japanese”), all of which seem to refer to women the male characters are into. Here’s “Amiga Da Minha Mulher,” and the more peaceful “Quem Não Quer Sou Eu.”
He also contributed to the benefit CD / collaboration Red Hot Rio 2, which also functioned as a 1970-era MPB retrospective of sorts. Here’s his version, with Mario C & Beck, of Caetano Veloso’s classic song, “Tropicalia.”
Seu Jorge isn’t the only songwriter to recently release a CD out of Rio: Thais Gulin just put out her second CD, the phonetically titled, “ôÔÔôôÔôÔ.” (Yes, that’s how she spells it on the album cover.) It’s a great example of contemporary Curitiba.
And what would a contemporary Rio lookaround be without a track from Chico Buarque’s latest album, Chico? Here’s the first track, “Querido Diario.” (“Dear Diary.”) It’s not the same type of song as his masterpieces, Construcao and Opera Do Malandro, based on Brecht’s Threepenny Opera, but it’s refreshing to know he’s still putting out quality tracks. As for those other two classics, they’ll have to wait for another day.
Kanye West and Jay-Z will be releasing a collaborative album, Watch The Throne, which will arrive on August 8. They have had an illustrious run over the past decade or so. Kanye rose to fame as the producer of many of the most popular tracks on Jay-Z’s classic album The Blueprint, including “Izzo (H.O.V.A.),” “Takeover” and “Heart of the City (Ain’t No Love).” He later characterized his sound as “soul beats” – an appropriate moniker, given that many of his most well-known tracks are re-mixed samples of R&B and soul classics.
This blend of R&B and hip-hop is not new – Diddy, back when he was Puff Daddy, worked with Notorious B.I.G. to produce “Mo Money Mo Problems,” which sampled (of all things) Diana Ross’s track “I’m Coming Out.” That track was originally written by Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards, who got the idea for the song after seeing three drag queens dressed as Diana Ross at a New York City nightclub. Who would have thought Biggie’s most well-known hit would have been indirectly inspired by Stonewall?
So it’s true, Kanye didn’t invent the sound. But his version of it has proven to be one of the most appealing subgenres of music in the popular music world today. Along the way he realized that people liked it so much that he no longer had to make it for other MCs – now he could be the one to rap over his own tracks. The enduring popularity of the Kanye West Soul Sample Factory proved to shine much brighter than the general mediocrity of his raps, and so voila! He became a superstar.
That said, the man is simply one of the best producers in any genre, period. He doesn’t just do R&B, either: the other genres he’s dipped his paintbrush into include Brazilian Tropicalia, indie folk, Gil Scott-Heron (yes, I do consider the man’s work to be a genre).
The breakout The Blueprint track he worked on with Jay-Z, “Izzo (H.O.V.A.)” sampled the classic Motown hit “I Want You Back,” by the Jackson 5.
Another quintessential “soul beat” Kanye / Jay-Z collaboration on that album was “Heart of the City (Ain’t No Love),” which sampled Bobby Bland’s 1974 hit “Ain’t No Love In the Heart of the City.”
But by far the most virtuosic feat of sampling on that album is “Takeover,” which took a little bit from “Five To One” by the Doors, David Bowie’s “Fame,” Dr. Dre’s “The Watcher,” KRS-One’s “Sound of Da Police,” B.G.’s “Cash Money Is An Army,” and Jay-Z’s previous track “Celebration.”
Kanye collaborated with Lil Wayne on several tracks for Tha Carter III. They were all solid, but “Let The Beat Build,” which sampled Eddie Kendrick’s “Day By Day,” is a masterpiece of production.
Kanye wasn’t all R&B and soul, either, especially in his earlier days. He worked with Consequence to produce the track “Don’t Forget ‘Em,” which sampled, of all things, the Milton Nascimento track “Catavento,” a fantastic song from Brazil that deserves its own post. The resulting hip-hop track is not quite as good as the original, but it’s worth mentioning because it demonstrates the enormous library of songs Kanye’s willing to draw from. I definitely gained some respect after I heard he’d taken a liking to that track.
“Golddigger” had everyone thinking Ray Charles was singing about a conniving woman, but the original track, “I Got A Woman,” was an homage to a beautiful, supportive lady. Jamie Foxx helped Kanye turn the tone around.
“Lost in the World” was a re-mix of Bon Iver’s harmony-heavy folk song “Lost in the Woods” – another departure from the Kanye mean (if such a thing can be considered to exist). He only made it better by featuring Gil Scott-Heron’s poem “Comment 2″ on the following track, “Who Will Survive In America.”
The latest soul beat track he’s put out is the single from Watch The Throne, “Otis,” which samples Otis Redding’s “Try A Little Tenderness.” I’ll say this – the man has taste. Which is really making me look forward to the LP he’s doing with Jay-Z. The track record is not exactly thin.
Beirut, the music project headed by Zach Condon, is going on tour. Good news. He’s going on tour with Arcade Fire, the National, and Twin Sister. Better news. He’s also contributed a track to the Red Hot Organization’s benefit album, Red Hot + Rio 2: a cover of Caetano Veloso’s classic Tropicalia ballad, “O Leãozinho.” David Byrne was the one who brought this sweet, haunting love song to the American public… for my part, it’s good to see Caetano’s music being tackled by mainstream US rock artists. It’s a partnership that can only end well. Check out the Red Hot album here.
And there’s more, too: in addition to Beirut, Red Hot + Rio 2 will feature such fantastic artists as Tom Ze, Dirty Projectors, John Legend, Forro in the Dark, Angelique Kidjo, and more. I personally cannot wait to buy this album. Even better, the proceeds from the concert benefit HIV/ AIDS related charities.
Here’s a list, by the way, of Beirut’s upcoming tour. Hopefully he’ll play something from Brazil when he’s out there:
05-09 Norfolk, VA – The Norva *
05-11 Baltimore, MD – Rams Head Live *
05-13 Montclair, NJ – The Wellmont Theater *
06-04-05 Houston, TX – Free Press Summer Fest
06-06 Dallas, TX – South Side Music Hall ^
06-08 Austin, TX – ACL Live ^
06-10 New Orleans, LA – Republic ^
06-12 Manchester, TN – Bonnaroo
06-14 Washington, DC – Black Cat ^
06-17 Brooklyn, NY – Northside Fest at McCarren Park
06-30 London, England – Hyde Park &
07-03 St. Gallen, Switzerland – Montreuz Jazz Fest
07-05 Ferrara, Italy – Castello Piazza #
07-07 Novisad, Serbia – EXIT Festival
07-09 Trencin, Slovakia – Pohoda Festival
07-12 Arles, France – Festival Les Suds
07-14 Meco, Portugal – Super Bock Super Rock Festival
07-16 Benicassim, Spain – Benicassim Festival
07-18 Lyon, France – Festival Nuits De Fourviere
07-20 Nyon, Switzerland – Paleo Festival
07-29 Portland, ME – State Theater
09-02 Dorset, England – End of the Road
09-04 Stradbally, Ireland – Electric Picnic
09-06 Manchester, England – Academy
09-08 Amsterdam, Netherlands – Pardiso
09-12 Paris, France – Olympia
09-14 Brussels, Belgium – AB
09-16 London, England – Brixton Academy
09-20 Stradbelly, Ireland – Electronic Picnic
DJ Underdog and Lunchbox Theory have been producing a series of mixtapes, “Africa Africa Africa,” for the past couple years that fuse different strains and samples of Afropop with Latin Jazz, Funk, Tropicalia, and House. In practice it’s not quite that diverse: over the course of their newest mixtape, subtitled “part 4,” the two predominant styles that emerge consistently are Afropop and House. The effectiveness of this album, then, depends heavily on whether you consider the producers to have mixed those two styles together in a way that consistently engages over the course of an hour-plus album – that is, whether the two genres complement each other or drag the whole thing down.
It starts off promisingly: the first track, “Omar and Zed Bias Go Dancing” was what hooked me in the first place. Its catchy blend of Fela-esque Afrobeat and soukous was effective enough by itself; when the bass and the house beat came in, the styles crystallized. Could this be the birth of a new genre? The producers tantalize you with the prospect over the next few songs and throw in touches of West Indian and Brazilian dance beats to round out its sound. Of particular note is DJ Underdog’s sparing yet effective use of dancehall beats.
All in all, the first two thirds of the mixtape are great. But for the most part, it peters out at the end: it seems as though the powers that be decided there was not enough of a sleepy “lounge” sound to the mixtape, and commanded DJ Underdog and Lunchbox Theory to make the last four tracks of the album sound more like a watered-down Buddha Bar soundtrack. There are flashes of that soaring pan-African fusion that worked so well in the first parts, but overall it doesn’t end as well as it began. Skip the “guest mix” (tracks 14-23) by DJ Cam Jus, it’s even less compelling than the lounge-ish strands that DJ Underdog is responsible for.
All in all, not a perfect mixtape, but for the most part its combination of styles is refreshing. I won’t be playing in on repeat anytime soon, but I’m glad I checked it out, and I’ll be listening for their next release with reserved anticipation.
Other than the lucky few of us who were introduced to Tom Zé’s music by actual Brazilians, most Americans have come to know him because of David Byrne’s bout with serendipity: in the early 1990′s Byrne discovered one of his albums – Estudando O Samba, his best – in a record store in Rio de Janeiro, and immediately sought Zé out to sign him as the first artist contracted under his Luaka Bop label. He’s been recording in Brazil and the US ever since.
During the beginning of his career, the Bahian-born Zé held a premier role in the development of the Tropicalia movement by co-authoring the influential album and artist’s manifesto Tropicalia: Ou Panis Et Circenses (Latin for “Bread and Circuses”) with Gilberto Gil, Caetano Veloso, Nara Leão, Gal Costa, and Os Mutantes. Tropicalia is a classic LP, and should not be missed. But Zé’s solo work at the time stands with the best of them, too. It is easy to see why Byrne fell in love with Estudando O Samba: it contains some of the most innovative music to come out of Brazil during that time – and considering the revolutionary influence musicians like Gilberto Gil and Caetano Veloso had, that’s saying something.
The heart of Zé’s music has its roots in samba (naturally), the Bahian style of music known as forro, bossa nova, and American genres, particularly rock and blues. In the sense of these influences, his music is quintessentially Tropicalian. But his music also has its own sense of style. Estudando O Samba, while only one of several fantastic albums Zé has released in his illustrious career, contains several characteristics that made Zé stand out on his own: the use of unconventional percussive and melodic instruments, such as the typewriter and a woman’s high pitched scream, rhythms that do not fit into any of the typical time signatures one finds in samba or rock, and lyrics that are often ironic and absurd.
“Doi,” off Estudando O Samba, is a track that embodies much of what Zé’s music is all about: a catchy bass, simple but effective Bahian percussion, and a chorus that just about stretches a single word – “doi,” which means “it hurts” – out in as many ways as you can think of. My personal favorite section is his delivery of the lyric, “meu coração que bate / que bate calado, que bate calado” (translated as “My heart that beats / that beats silently, that beats silently”): due to the Portuguese pronunciation of “bate” as “BAH-chi,” the resulting click of consonants is delightful and sounds not unlike, well, a heart beating. It’s the most effective part of a fantastic, unique song.
Sometimes in the beginning of winter, after a long day working or walking outside, when the novelty of that cold, crisp breeze wears off, you want to scramble your brain with psychedelia and memories of warm winter nights spent with lovers and loved ones. Here’s something that gets my mind in just that state:
1) Frank Zappa – Peaches En Regalia
2) Chico Buarque – Deus Lhe Pague
3) Jimi Hendrix – Tomorrow Never Knows
4) Elis Regina – Upa Neguinho
5) Antonio Carlos & Jocafi – Simbarere
6) The Commodores – Slippery When Wet
7) Screamin’ Jay Hawkins – I Put A Spell On You
8) Chico Buarque – O Malandro No. 2
9) Caetano Veloso – Um Canto De Afoxe Para O Bloco De Aye (Ile Aye)
10) Milton Nascimento – Travessia
11) Chico Buarque & Gal Costa – Folhetim
12) Tom Waits – Little Trip to Heaven (On The Wings Of Your Love)
13) Seu Jorge – Lady Stardust
14) Milton Nascimento – Povo da Raca Brasil
15) Caetano Veloso – Lost In The Paradise
16) David Bowie – Life On Mars?
17) Seu Jorge – Mada
18) Tracy Nelson – Down So Low
19) Milton Nascimento & Lo Borges – Cais
Listen to the playlist here: http://listen.grooveshark.com/#/playlist/Scrambled_Eggs/40428213