LSD advocate and counterculture icon Timothy Leary once advised American youth to “turn on, tune it, and drop out.” Brazilian culture has been sending a similar message for generations before Leary’s 15 minutes of fame, their oft-advertised philosophy being “lay back, chill out, and move on.” Brazilians have promoted their so-called resistance to stress and their white sandy beaches for the benefit of tourists looking for a clean getaway.
This international music label Putumayo World Music recently released a beautiful collection of songs reflecting the laid-back nature of the country in Brazilian Lounge, which features 12 light samba’s and bossa nova’s played by some of the areas top performers. Brazilian Lounge strives for a kind of Cal Tjader and Antonio Carlos Jobim kind of feel, although many of the tunes sound closer to the works of Astrid Gilberto. Guitars are strummed; the percussion is slow with danceable beats, the vocalizations are pretty but by no means tremendous, and the compositions are all upbeat. It’s the kind of CD you’d hear as an endless loop in the background at some pretentious coffee houses, or perhaps would play while performing a bit of work around the house. There’s nothing wrong with it, it’s just not a terribly exciting listen.
I realize that some music is specifically made to be a comforting backdrop to make for a pleasant shopping experience or whatever. If that floats your boat, this album is definitely for you. However, for those who need a little less structure and perhaps some dissonance, Brazilian Lounge will want to make you hit your head on the coffee table. I liked the songs but ultimately they were forgettable. To an extent, it reminded me of some of the easily digestible Windham Hill pop-jazz of the eighties, all well played, soft and romantic. But what promised to be a full meal on those albums often felt like a morsel after it was consumed.