Monday, 10 March 2014

Review: Bebel Gilberto - Momento

The first thing anyone who has paid even just minor attention to Bebel Gilberto since her stunning debut ‘Tanto Tempo’ will notice is the ever increasing number of English-language songs on her albums. A bid for commercial acceptance in the English dominated pop world, it doesn’t necessarily have to mean bad, but it is a decidedly worrisome trend. Although not quite as horrific as Entertainment Weekly’s frankly witless statement that she is ‘the Norah Jones of the [bossa nova] genre’.

The excellent ‘Tanto Tempo’ of course made her name with the perfect melding of bossa and electronica, and her eponymous second album marked a move to a more acoustic and orchestrated work. Much less successful, it made a nice lounge and chill album, but was certainly not as big a blip on the radar as the gorgeous debut - disappointingly then, album number three falls resolutely into the same bucket.

The title track that opens is basically relaxing beach music, but the pace gets up for ‘Bring Back The Love’, with it’s upbeat dance vibe and a little keyboard and synth work thrown in. ‘Close To You’ meanwhile goes for the romantic jugular, with a spare yet beautiful musical backdrop against Gilberto’s English and Portuguese lyrics. ‘Os Novos Yorkinos’ that follows is light and throwaway. Perfectly pleasant, you’d have forgotten it as soon as it’s over.

And that’s really how most of the album goes - some lively tracks, some swooningly romantic, some filler. ‘Cacada’ gets the hot samba going, whereas ‘Night And Day’, ‘Um Segundo’ and ‘Cade Voce’ gets some good guitar work in. Most of the rest though like ‘Words’ sounds underdeveloped, almost as though it was a throwaway afterthought. Tellingly most of the best songs are in her native Portuguese.

A good summer record, in truth it sits somewhere between the summery bossa-electronica of ‘Tanto Tempo’ and the over-orchestrated lounge of ‘Bebel Gilberto’. Fortunately it leans a little more to the debut in its production, but there is still too much in the way of lounge material and songs sung in English to appeal to the wider market - which is a shame as we know she is capable of so much more, and her voice in her native Portugese is one of the worlds most genuinely sensuous and beautiful. ‘Momento’ stands as a good album, in that is is more than just average, but it pales against what we all know she can really produce.


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