Super review by Cal Gibson, of The Secret Soul Society and Scruffy Soul Recordings.
With January thankfully finally shuffling off the stage, all quarrelsome and querulous, thoughts turn to the first inklings of spring as February pops its head around the door. A few more weeks and the green shoots will be out in force once again, the eternal turn once again towards the sun, to life and laughter, warmth and wisdom.
Joao Selva, alongside uber-producer Patchworks, taps into just such sunny optimism on Passarinho: MPB vibes abound as the melodies glide and the bass-lines nimbly pop. Its light, luscious, softly-strummed and deeply felt: Brazilian feel-good music to lighten the load.
The title cut leads the charge, familiar chord progressions the bedrock for a sweet little ditty that’s not a million miles away from Oye Como Va: the organ softly rocks as Joao and crew swing while they’re winning. It’s gentle, whole-hearted, made for sunny days and sandy beaches. Delicate and delightful, music to make you smile – a lovely introduction to the album.
With the template established and the musicians in the groove what follows is nine more articulate lessons in the art of the dance. Seu Carnaval, for example, ups the tempo but keeps that swing: Brazil’s national obsession alongside football makes sure that the party always goes off. Beleza.
The cuica gets a run out in the strutted funk flavours of Vai Te Curar: loping, laid back, echoes of Marcos Valle maybe, the horns sweeping in to bolster the easy-going beat – another relaxed banger for the dancers and romancers. A cool guitar solo being the final piece of the boom-bap puzzle.
There’s tropical touches throughout, hints of Bahia, Cape Verdean licks and tricks. Menima Me Encanta is a highlight: again the heavenly horn lines pepper the zydeco squeezebox backing for a proper global hoedown. A vision of togetherness, perfectly concocted for scorching afternoons on seasides worldwide. Subtle and effective: classy songwriting without a doubt.
Chuva‘s bass-heavy bop is a great way to round things off, another deft run through the slinky syncopations. Passarinho, then, is in essence a beautifully constructed album that swings contentedly through Brazilian tropes that are so familiar and yet somehow unconquerable. As long as there’s sunshine and sand and sea to swim in, people will continue to be entranced by the fever dream of Brazil and its wonderful music. A softly-swung delight.
Joao Selva’s Passarinho is out now, on Underdog Records.