Thievery Corporation is the dynamic duo of Rob Garza and Eric Hilton, combining elements of dub, jazz, reggae, Latin and ethnic styles. When I think of Thievery Corporation, I think of psychedelic lounge music with a few funkier, laid back hip hop-style tracks, but they never break too far out of that lounge kind of feel… and yet… they do. The duo has a very keen sense of how much it can branch out, while still keeping its core identity. Saudade, due to be released April 1, 2014, is no different. While most of the album is “a bit of a departure for us” as Garza quotes, you can still place their distinct sound throughout the entire album. Garza and Hilton were originally inclined to write music together when they realized their mutual respect for jazz and bossa nova. Saudade is a tribute to those roots.
The album begins with “Decollage,” a traditional bossa nova tune with subtle piano licks. “Mue Nego” continues that traditional bossa nova groove. “Quem Me Leva” adds a distinctive Latin jazz element to the bossa groove, supplemented by a melodic classical lead guitar. “Firelight” is a hypnotic lounge track, reminiscent of the psychedelic Thievery Corporation of yore, but with a twist of the new album’s more syncopated bossa nova sound rounding it off. Electric keyboard and heavenly, echoing vocals make “Firelight” an irresistible tune.
“Sola In Citta” brings back the traditional bossa nova feel, although it bridges the gap between jazz and lounge a bit, and uses dissonance to accent the harmonies for another mesmerizing track. “No More Disguise” is very slow and string-heavy, with some beautiful imagery in the lyrics. “Saudade” features classical guitar and hand drums, for an extremely authentic texture. The title track also demonstrates the duo’s unique ability to create dichotomy by making a slow tempo feel quick (I think this also has to do with the short length of the song). “Claridad” is slow and soft, with hypnotic background tones and reverberating mallet instruments.
“Nos Dois” really brings back the space lounge feel that Thievery Corporation is known for. Pulses of psychedelic swirls are complemented by harmonic strings and subtle guitar. This is the track to sit back to with your headphones on, close your eyes and lose yourself.
“Le Coeur” is another simple bossa tune with prominent chord changes. Ringing saxophone accents the lyrics during the chorus. “Parra Sempre” returns to the classical lead guitar, but with a much quicker pace than the rest of the album. It also has a much more lighthearted timbre. “Bateau Rouge” incorporates key changes and mood changes seamlessly, creating a unique listening experience. Finally, “Depth of My Soul” is a dark, vocal jazz tune, filled with incredible imagery throughout the lyrics and powerful strings instrumentation holding down the melody.
As a jazz musician myself, this album was truly refreshing. With Saudade, one quickly recognizes the outstanding musicianship and their evolved sound resonates beautifully as a truth that is dynamically different yet comfortably familiar. It is as if I always knew that behind their psychedelic lounge style was this authentic, Latin, bossa nova groove. Also, although most of the songs are in other languages, the few that are in English have incredible lyrics. Thievery Corporation has always been great at saying a lot with just a few words. Although there are generally more lyrics in these tunes compared to past albums, they still have the same kind of power behind them. I’m positive that the tunes in Portuguese, French, etc. are no different. All of that being said, I am still a bigger fan of the older Thievery Corporation albums, but Saudade is truly a great album, and I completely support their decision to branch out and show their true colors. Great work Thievery Corp!
Words: “Ragin’” Randy Harris
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