(Guest Review by Matt Edmund)
The word is “Saudade”. While there’s no direct English translation, the word comes from the Portuguese and Galician language and describes the feeling of deep emotional longing and nostalgia, perhaps for a lost lover that you know will never return. The word has been long associated musically in Brazil within the Bossa Nova genre, most notably the song “Chenga de Saudade” (first recorded in 1958 by Elizete Cardoso) is considered the first ever recorded Bossa Nova song. Considering the love Rob Garza and Eric Hilton have shown Brazilian music over the years through their work in Thievery Corporation, it’s not too big of a shock to see them dedicate an entire album to the genre made famous in the 20th century.
Saudade’s feel and flow through its thirteen tracks shouldn’t surprise anyone familiar to Thievery Corporation’s past work – the sound is undeniably identifiable. Actually the album is quite predictable once you get through the first few cuts. It’s the “ah-ha” moment by track four “Firelight” – “all Bossa album featuring nothing but female vocalists”. Beyond the predictability of the album, Saudade does deliver on the chilled laid back throwback sound, with sultry vocals provided by LouLou, Natalia Clavier, and Elin Melgarejo to name a few. While the material is repetitive, it’s well produced and musically top notch. The one track that sticks out of my mind is the cut that closes out the album, “Depth of My Soul”. Perhaps it sticks out because it’s one of the only non Bossa cuts on the album – it comes across as something out of a James Bond flick, lingering piano work with a string accompaniment. Vocals by former Bitter:Sweet singer Shana Halligan are soulful and full of conviction.
While I can’t really say that there’s anything “wrong” musically with Saudade as an album, I am let down by the fact this is an all Bossa Nova album. Perhaps if I lived on a tropical island I would feel differently. I don’t think this is one of Thievery Corporation’s albums I can throw on in any mood, not like I can with The Cosmic Game or many of the Corporation’s past albums which feature a wide range of musical sound. Saudade has a feel that will either complete your environment or irritate it (took me a few times to sit down and fully listen to this album). You may feel differently but this album may be a once or twice a year listener at that.