Chicago Sun-Times
Tuning in with Thomas Conner

Brazilian Girls, "New York City" (Verve) [3.5 out of 4 stars]

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Born in Rome, raised in Nice and Munich but so at home in the capital of American polyglot that her group has named its third album in the Big Apple's honor, singer Sabina Sciubba is easily understood in any of the five languages she variously employs on these 11 tracks. One of the few real surprises at Lollapalooza 2008, she was both the alluring seductress and the threatening dominatrix, and on record, she is a simultaneously inviting and aloof combination of the Velvet Underground's Nico, Serge Gainsbourg's duet partner Jane Birkin, the immortal women from ABBA and the original Girl from Ipanema, Astrud Gilberto--though the one thing Sciubba is not is Brazilian.

Drawn together in the underground club scene in Brooklyn and the Lower East Side, Sciubba, keyboardist Didi Gutman, drummer Aaron Johnston and bassist Jesse Murphy start with a foundation of the giddy space-age bachelor music and lounge exotica of late '50s heroes Martin Denny, Esquivel and Yma Sumac, plus the pioneering synthesizer sounds of '70s legends Kraftwerk. This is similar turf to what Stereolab works, but Brazilian Girls aren't nearly as tethered to rock's familiar instrumental voices or primal 4/4 pulse, favoring much more fluid, free-floating and sexy dance grooves, as well as less easily identifiable--and hence more timeless--computer sounds.

It's easy to focus on these playful soundscapes at the expense of the songwriting, but "New York City" wouldn't be nearly as effective if it weren't for the captivating melodies and sophisticated but unobtrusive arrangements of songs such as the aptly named "Internacional," the deliciously creepy "Losing Myself" and "Good Time," as gleeful a summer pop anthem as I've ever heard. "Some people just want to lie on beaches in the Caribbean/Some people want to do crazy things with green amphibians/Some people want some people to do as they please/We just want to have a good time!," Sciubba sings, and the boys answer: "All the time!" Here, here.

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This page contains a single entry by Jim DeRogatis published on August 13, 2008 4:23 PM.

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