On Beulah’s album “The Coast is Never Clear” there is a wonderful little song called “What Will You Do When Your Suntan Fades?” [Windows Media Player, RealAudio] that stands out somewhat – breezy, warm, jazzy; a syncopated, vaguely latino beat; shakers and a soft trumpet solo; a hint of Belle & Sebastian, Burt Bacharach and Beatles. Based on my love for this track, what else should I check out?
That’s one of my favorite Beulah songs. I don’t know how much you know about genres, etc., but “what will you do…” is Beulah’s take on doing a bossa nova song. The short bossa nova explanation is “brazilian jazz from the mid-sixties.” There’s a longer explanation involving the history of Brazil’s music, the flatted fourth,and more, but you can read up on that in your own time.
The godfather of Bossa Nova is Antonio Carlos Jobim. His influence cannot be overstated - he is the genre. Check out The composer of desafinado plays to begin; though they’re instrumentals, these songs - “the girl from impanema”, “agua de beber”, “desafinado”, “insensatez” - would be come huge, covered by everyone from Sinatra to Sting to Yo la tengo.
Bossa really took off with “Getz/Gilberto” . While Jobim wrote killer songs, Joao Gilberto’s guitar playing and voice put a face on them. The album is indispensable - every track is a killer. Jobim plays piano on it, Stan Getz adds some smooth sax, and Joao’s voice is perfect. But the real breakout star of the album is Astrud Gilberto, Joao’s wife. She sang on the immortal version of “The girl from impanema” on this album, thus launching a career.
Moving on to Astrud, her records are a bit smoother and lighter, but her gorgeous voice fits it perfectly. Look to the rainbow is her best, but I also really like Beach Samba and A certain smile, a certain sadness.
Many indie rock bands have done bossa covers (Portastatic’s cover of Os Mutantes’ “baby”), but many more have done “bossa style” songs. They’re not “legally” bossa songs - they don’t follow the exact rules, but they’re close enough.
Sure. I have a collection of latin music, including Getz, Gilberto and odd cases like Pink Martini. Your explanation about Brazilian music doesn’t help me, but you get lots of points for effort.
That’s why I used the term “vaguely latino”; while it clearly has a bossa-influenced rhythm, it’s not really a true bossa nova song.
The latin influence is coincidental; it’s more the warm, laidback style that catches me, although the latin rhythm is certainly a plus. I’m already a fan of mellow indierock bands such as Yo La Tengo (which is a spot-on recommendation, by the way), Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci, George, American Analog Set, Azure Ray, Stereolab, The Decemberists, Portishead and Hem, not to mention Tom Waits’ softer stuff (Alice is, to me, the perfect kind of smoky vocal jazz). Who else could be worth mentioning?
I am not looking for individual songs, but artists – or at the very least albums – with a consistent sound. I’m an album listener more than a song listener, and nudging that one Beulah track into my playlist breaks the continuity of my listening.
Bah! Here, I thought you were a bossa virgin who was about to have his world rocked.
So, let me get this straight - what indie rock bands have a mellow, breezy vibe (but aren’t “slowcore” a la Low or Bedhead)?
You’ve probably heard them, but I’d also suggest the Sea and Cake (start with “the biz”) and the Aluminum Group (“wonder boy plus” for starters). I’ve also been digging Map, though their previous EP’s had more of this vibe you seek than their newest one.
Another band you may or may not have heard of is Maher Shalal Hash Baz. They’re a japanese band that are signed to the Geographic label (run by the Pastels - another band that captured the breezy, laid-back vibe you seek), and sort of sound like Belle and Sebastian if they were a japanese slightly psychedelic folk band.
That’s more like it. I have heard of, but not heard, Sea and Cake and the Pastels; the other stuff is new to me. I will check out all of it.
I am listening to some sample tracks from the Pastels’ The Last Great Wilderness and it’s definitely very pleasant so far. Hey, there’s a trumpet.
Maher Shalal Hash Baz looks interesting as well. They seem to like stuffing their albums with a humongous number of short songs?
And Map looks like it’s still looking for a label?
Thanks for the recommendations.
The Pastels started out as more of a jangly lo-fi group in the mid-eighties, along the lines of Beat Happening or the Vaselines. Later in their career, they morphed into a more freeform band with those influences you hear on “last great wilderness.”
Unfortunately, that record isn’t very indicative of their sound - it’s a mostly-insrumental soundtrack they did for a recent film. Check out their album “illumination” for a great later-era set from them.
Maher Shalal are weird like that - each of their albums has 40 songs or so. It’s not a schizo listening experience, though, as they have a uniform vibe. One song flows into another.
Map are on Velvet Blue Music, one of my favorite “tiny indie” labels to crop up in the past decade. Almost every record they’ve released is incredibly good.