This is my second page looking at Brazil's indiepop scene (what little of it I've been able to track down...) These reviews start here and are part of a much larger Brazilian Music Guide...
Legiao Urbano "Uma Otro Estacao" (EMI, 1997)
Widely revered by fans of the so-called BRock scene, Legiao Urbano were a big commercial success, and still have a huge cult following, although their charismatic lead singer, Renato Russo, died in 1996 and the group has since disbanded. This is the band's last studio album, released after the Russo's death. It has their typical mix of styles, acoustic-ish, New Wave-y pop and somewhat wispy, twee indiepop, although on this album they sound very mature and accomplished -- slick, confident, more reverby and grandiose on the more orchestrated numbers. Several songs are pretty catchy, in a folk-rock-y kind of way, and midway through the album becomes more acoustically oriented. There's a mournful, haunting edge that creeps into the album, presumably because of Russo's ongoing, and soon to be terminal, struggle with HIV disease. As far as I can determine, some of these songs were already in the can when Russo died, while others were recorded by the remaining bandmembers afterwards (including some material he wrote, but never had the chance to record). Tim Buckley fans might get into this album... heck, I'd even recommend it.
Lenine "O Dia Em Que Faremos Contatos" (BMG Ariola, 1997)
One hypnotic track on one of David Byrne's BRAZIL CLASSICS compilations was enough to send me scurrying out to pick this one up... and I wasn't disappointed at all. One of the most creative, listenable MPB artists out there today, very much in the tradition of Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil's best work... a fine mix of pop, trip-hop, samba and folk-blues styles.
Lenine "Na Pressao" (BMG Ariola, 1999)
More indie/trip-hop style stuff, but with a much more predictable, static feel than the last album. This album is pleasant and has some creative moments, but mostly it's formulaic and not terribly exciting. Some cool, spacy tracks towards the end where things get a tweaky help to balance out the rest of the record -- on balance I suppose it's worth checking out... but don't expect too much.
Lenine "Falange Canibal" (BMG Ariola, 2002)
Here Lenine continues his explorations of densely-layered, loose-grooved, weirdly conceived trip-pop. It's weird, arty stuff, perhaps a bit dense for most the casual listener, but anyone looking for challenging, original new material out of Brazil (or just something out of their own frame of reference) will want to check this out. Creative, but not very "pop..." even includes a twisted stab at Cuban son on a track or two, amid all the ambient hip-hop rock melanges.
Pedro Luis E A Parede "Astronauta Tupy" (WEA/Dubas Musica, 1998)
This Rio rocker is pals with Fernanda Abreu, and apparently founded a popular rock club called Circo Voador. After establishing himself as a successful songwriter, he decided to found his own band and cut an album. Here he runs through an interesting modernization of the tropicalia mix'n'match approach, blending off-kilter guitar rock with addictive batucada percussion. It's not as wild as, say, the best moments of Lenine, but more engaging than the likes of modern rockers such as Zeca Baleiro or Joao Supplicy. Old-school rocker Ney Matogrosso duets on a tune or two, and one track was co-written with Abreu. Fans of Tom Ze might enjoy this... Worth checking out!
Monokini "Mondo Topless" (Bizarre, 1998)
Yay...! A Sao Paulo rock band with some nice, uncomplicated hipsterrific indie-pop, which ranges from bouncy, brainless power-pop to Bacharach-tinged Stereolabbiness... Very much in keeping with all the twee stuff that was going on in the UK and US around the same time. If you like artists such as Stereo Total, April March or Die Moulinettes, then this disc is for you. Extra points for keeping the lyrics (when there are lyrics) in Portuguese... Much appreciated!
Mopho "Mopho" (Baratos Afins, 2000)
Cool stuff! Definitely off the beaten track as far as Brazilian pop goes... indiepop isn't really big in Brazil, and the hometown bands are incredibly hard to track down, even down there. This is fairly trippy, psychedelia-tinged power-pop that seems to take its cues from old George Harrison and Badfinger albums, with a touch of "heavier" rock ala Rod Argent and the like. Although this Sao Paulo band has its limitations, it's still pretty fun to hear these old '70s boogie rock and lush, Beatles-y pop riffs fronted by Portuguese vocals. Several songs are catchy and stand up on their merit -- lighthearted, dreamy, and definitely worth checking out either as an indie fan or as a Brazilian rock buff. (Mopho is also profiled in an online article in the Brazilian e-zine PopBook.)
The Mosquitos "Mosquitos" (Bar None, 2003)
An absolute delight. Finding the perfect midway point between Brazilian cool and sugary indiepop twee, New York's Mosquitos feature vocals by Juju Stulbach, a Rio-born expatriate who combines the airy, insouciance of Astrud Gilberto with the flip, casual, DIY mellowness of the North American cutesy-pop crowd. There's a relaxed love of melody that suggests a debt to Yo La Tengo, as well as a simplicity and cleanness of line that brings The Bats to mind... Stulbach's Portuguese-language vocals are a highlight, with a fluidity and good-natured tone that should draw in any devotee of classic, roller-rinky Brazilian pop, as well as fans of BMX Bandits, Beat Happening and the whole Pacific Northwest lo-fi scene. Admittedly, the cutesy, naifish English-language lyrics of singer-guitarist Chris Root don't hold up as well to repeated listenings, but they put the record into the right context... In short, this is the perfect twee-pop album that native Brazilian indie bands have yet to create: it's lovely and dreamy, full of pretty sounds and foreign words... and I like it a lot!
The Mosquitos "Sunshine Barato" (Bar None, 2004)
This disc continues on the much same path as the first Mosquitos set, though perhaps with more of an indiepop inclination, but the Brazilianness is still there, too. Perhaps because they are now a known quantity, this disc is a little less striking than its predecessor, but it's still pretty cute and pretty cool. A fun splash in the sun, with lots of perky melodies and catchy, playful hooks.
Mundo Livre S.A. "Carnaval Na Obra" (Abril/Excelente, 1998)
Soulful, accomplished '90s alt-rock, with a heavy, funk-drenched approach and an interesting blend of traditional influences. Airy-voiced lead singer Zero Quatro bears a more than passing similarity to the great Caetano Veloso, not just in his nasal-yet-suave drawl, but also in his eclectic musical approach. Sometimes the band sits on a groove a little too long, letting things grow static, but overall this is a pretty impressive effort. The use of the cavaquinho next to a heavy soul snare drum is especially nice. Definitely worth checking out, if you're curious about the more modern-sounding Brazilian bands.
Os Ostras "Operacao Submarina" (Top Cat/Abril, 1998)
Ska-tinged, surfy, power-pop indie-rock from Brazil? I am so there! The first song is a bouncy indie-pop tune that's kinda catchy... Unfortunately most of the rest of the songs are just straightforward surf-garage instrumentals, and while it's cool to know that there are bands in Brazil that play this style of music, it's not something you couldn't hear plenty of places elsewhere. Os Ostras play well, though: bet they were fun live, too!
Otto "Samba Pra Burro" (Trama Music, 1998)
First-rate Brazilian electronica, liberally mixing hip-hop beats and samba riffs into a richly-textured ambient backdrop, with the occasional drum-and-bass skittering-about. The best tracks on here are outstanding -- and where there's one record this good, more are sure to follow.
Otto "Condom Black" (Trama Music, 2001)
Otto gets a bit spacier and mellower on this disc, in some ways perhaps less "electronic", but still kinda cool. He even does a bit of more or less straight-up shoegazer electric guitar pop, and sings on hseveral songs. I can't say that this album leapt out at me the way the best tracks on Samba Pra Burro did, but it's certainly easy on the ears and worth checking out if you want something kinda mellow to listen to. (By the way, I know that Beto Lee, who pitches in on this album, is Rita Lee's son... does anyone know if Valmir Gil, who also plays on this album, is related to Gilberto?)
Otto "Sem Gravidade" (Trama Music, 2003)
Getting even looser and more indierock, Otto opens up with the giddy, guitarry "Lavanda," followed by the dance-y "Tento Entender," which features guest vocals by Rita Lee (and her son Beto, on guitar....) The rest of the album slips into spacier, less poppy material, odd, off-kilter tunes that have a laidback, bossa-esque feel to them. By using less high-tech sound processing over the lyrics, Otto reveals the plainness of his own voice, giving this album a more personal, intimate feel. Another mellow record, certainly worth checking out.
Sala Especial "Sala Especial" (Bizarre, 2000)
Four cute, kinda garage-y, indie-rockin' instrumentals, built largely around a spy-jazzy electric organ and a perky, infectious beat. One track is a riff on an old bossa standard; other than that, this EP isn't particularly "Brazilian," but that track is clever and the rest is equally fun. Worth checking out.
Moreno Veloso +2 "Music Typewriter" (Natasha/Hannibal, 2001)
Yes, Moreno Veloso certainly does bear a striking vocal and stylistic likeness to his father, the patron saint of tropicalia, Caetano Veloso. Playing ping-pong balls and toy pianos on some tracks, Moreno shows a playful, adventurous streak that is also very similar, although the younger Veloso brings a subtle modernism to bear on these recordings, and seems more comfortable with electronica production than his well-known dad. In this regard he's closer in creative temprament to art-rocker Arto Lindsay than to Caetano, who in the past has let the glitziness of new technology get the better of him. Accompanied on a few tracks by bossa progeny Daniel Jobim, and on others by his pals Kassin and Domenico ("+2"), Moreno casts his net softly, recalling his father's calmest albums from the mid-1970s. With production assist by Chico Neves, one of the most prominent alternative rockers in Brazil, Veloso creates the kind of "world music" that isn't meant to be pumped out of the speakers at the local Starbuck's -- instead, it should be savored slowly at home.
Various Artists "BRAZILIAN PEBBLES: ACID, FLOWERS AND FUZZ GARAGE PSYCHEDELIA" (Baratos Afins, 2000)
Cool set of modern-day psychedelic and garage bands from Sao Paulo, ranging from "Secret Agent Man"-style surf-pop to totally trippy, echo-laden swirly stuff. A lot of variety and pretty cool bands. Particularly noteworthy are Nihilo, Os Espectros and Makina Du Tempo, who achieve the largest, most expansive sounds on here, as well as the Superchunk-y Effervescing Elephant, whose "J. Jenie Junk" is pretty fun, despite being sung in English. Debts to numerous North American bands are plain, as are the inevitable nods towards hometown heroes, Os Mutantes. Well worth checking out, especially considering how little indiepop comes out of Brazil, and how good so much of it is. (NOTE: the Baratos Afins record store, which put this disc out, is probably the only place you're likely to find this album. Check out their website from the link above for mailorder info, as well as info on other Brazilian indie bands.)
Various Artists "ONDE E QUE ESTA O MEU ROCK'N'ROLL? - ARNALDO BAPTISTA
NOVAMENTE REVISITADO" (Dabliu, 1999)
This low-rent Brazilian rocknroll tribute to ex-Mutante Arnaldo Baptista has its charms and its iffy moments too... The repertoire includes material from Baptista's Mutantes days, as well as a bunch of his solo stuff. The bands are also pretty diverse, ranging from actively painful Pat Travers-style rockers (Nata Violeta, Ligacio Direta) to space rockers, grindcorers, Green Day clones, and goth-ish indie types of varying ability. It's not, to be honest, the greatest album ever. But you could look at it as the Brazilian equivalent of one of those zillions of mid-1980s postpunk rock comps that came out during the days when they still called it "college" rock. Also, keep in mind that Baptista wasn't the world's most coherent composer, so anyone covering his raggedy-ass material has a tough act to follow. Some of these songs hit the mark, others don't -- but for the hardcore Mutantes fan, this could definitely be worth checking out.
Various Artists "O SILENCIO DO GALAXIE: CAUSAS E CONSEQUENCIAS" (Midsummer Madness, 2000)
A couple of years ago I wrote a letter to a little Brazilian underground indie label I had heard of, saying "hey! hi! send us your records and we would love to review them...!" Well, I hadn't necessarily expected a response -- folks don't always understand how cool you are just 'cause you tell them you are -- so I wasn't that shocked when no reply was forthcoming. What was a surprise (and a very pleasant one at that!) was that the label got in touch with me ages later and sent a copy of this lovely CD compilation, wrapped in construction paper and featuring over a dozen swell Brazilian indie bands that are certainly below the radar for folks here in the old EU. Fans of the Spanish label, Siesta Records, might want to sit up and take notice of Midsummer Madness -- it's another earnest, genuinely independent label (and fanzine) that follows its own heart and issues music that it loves. This CD (Volume Two in a series) collects tracks from several 7" singles by bands such as The Gilbertos, Grenade, Stellar and Vibrosensores, presumably the cream of the Brazilian indie scene. It's mostly recognizable, charmingly derivative guitar rock, with hints of old Sonic Youth, Sarah label and new romantic haircut bands from years gone by... and it easily holds its own with similar fare from across the world. This is stuff you won't be able to find anywhere else -- other than possibly on Brazil's online station, Trama Radio -- and it's all pretty nice. I especially like the opening track by Feedback Club, which has a pleasantly Sonic Youth/Jesus And Mary Chain feel to it. Several songs are sung in English, some are bilingual, and some (my faves) are in Portuguese... The rock revolution is alive and well in Rio de Janeiro, and now you can check it out for yourself.
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