Album Reviews: Brazilian Girls by Brazilian GirlsLet's dispense with the obligatory observations first: only one member of Brazilian Girls is a girl, and none of them are Brazilian. They don't even sing in Portuguese, though the aforementioned girl, Sabina Sciubba, does dish out French, Spanish, German, a little Italian, and -- don't worry, American audiences -- English. The band has an almost instantly recognizable sound, one that follows in the footsteps of any number of female-fronted pop/trip-hop/fusion acts, from Morcheeba to Supreme Beings of Leisure. But about three songs into Brazilian Girls' self-titled debut, comparisons go out the window, simply because this quartet of New Yorkers is so outrageously talented. Sure, "Lazy Lover" isn't the first song to combine jazz, bossa nova, funk and electronica, but it's hard to name another band that's done it this skillfully.
Sciubba's wonderfully assured, seductive voice has a lot to do with the album's success, as do the inventive samples of programmer/keyboardist Didi Gutman. But the heart and soul of Brazilian Girls is an outstanding rhythm section made up of Jesse Murphy on bass and Aaron Johnston on drums. Highly respected session men on the New York jazz scene, Murphy and Johnston bring something to Brazilian Girls' sound that too many electronic-based acts have neglected -- namely, an organic, elastic sense of groove. Already interesting tracks like the smoky opener "Homme" and the German-cabaret-meets-New-Orleans-funeral-march of "Corner Store" are made even better by the ingenious ways these two great players twist the backbeats into ever more infectious, danceable rhythms.
"Lazy Lover," the Beth Orton-esque "Don't Stop," and the haunting closer "Ships in the Night" are the obvious highlights, but Brazilian Girls even pull off a leftfield stab at dancehall on "Pussy" and set the poetry of Pablo Neruda to a slow reggae-samba fusion on "Me Gusta Cuando Callas." Is there anything they can't do? Sell a lot records, probably -- this is the kind of hard-to-categorize music that often has trouble finding its audience. Let's hope, however, that Brazilian Girls have just enough personality and pop smarts to beat the odds and garner the popularity they deserve. - Andy Hermann
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