The charming complexity of this album is a reflection of the complexity of the circumstances that brought together Fránçois & The Atlas Mountains. Having sworn off music in 2008, Fránçois was planning a life behind his canvases and brushes instead of behind his guitar, but after an intervention by friends, he re-emerged with a new zest for his craft. And thank goodness he did. E Volo Love is a bilingual love story, speckled with melodic guitar, sweet and soft lyrics, delayed vocals and African influences in rhythm and instrumentation. “Muddy Heart” perfectly synthesizes this evolution, mixing catchy pop melodies with romantic—albeit borderline desperate—lyrics. Its rhythm creeps into your bones, leaving you with an overwhelming sense of relaxation spiked with utopia. Their sound is distinctly French pop, with Fránçois’ airy vocals perfectly complementing every note and beat. Think the French version of the Sea and Cake, but with a few more obscure musical instruments.
Trial track: “Edge of Town”
– Allie Mason
Nada Surf named their seventh offering after a favourite saying of guitarist/vocalist Matthew Caws’ father, a philosophy professor. It refers to the fact that though humans name and study stars, nothing we do truly affects them. But the main theme that emerges on this album is more about maturity than philosophy. The opening track “Clear Eye Clouded Mind” boasts lyrics such as, “All I feel is transition / when do we get home,” and with the next two tracks named “Waiting For Something” and “When I Was Young,” Caws spends a lot of time reminiscing, almost to the point of melancholy. On “Teenage Dreams,” he reassures the listener, and maybe even himself, that “It’s never too late for teenage dreams / It’s never too late.” The songs, however, are mostly upbeat, which prevents Stars from sounding like a 38-minute pity party. All in all, it’s a solid offering by the New York-based band.
Trial track: “Clear Eye Clouded Mind”
– Kamila Hinkson
Brazilian Beat might inspire a caipirinha cocktail or two, but listeners won’t feel compelled to squeeze their hibernating thighs into Speedos anytime soon. Putumayo World Music released the album in an attempt to expand their brand and introduce modern world music to the web-obsessed, multimedia-absorbing masses. The label has been releasing global music compilations since 1975, but waited until 2011 to issue a digital album. Brazilian Beat, Putumayo’s third digital release, features songs that hold true to the traditional style of bossa nova—the jazz-infused samba dance roots of Rio de Janeiro’s artistic beach and nightclub culture of the 1950s.
The album’s only “modern” twist is a little electronic mixing, synthesizer and some catchy songs that could pass for pop. It’s redundant and hardly innovative, most of the songs featured were released individually by the artists over five years ago. You might find yourself swaying along to it after a few too many.
Trial track: “Feriado Pessoal” – Bruna Caram
– Elizabeth Mackay
Taking its name from a Marx Brothers’ film from the ‘30s, the album’s stereophonic imagery is lush and rich. A Night at the Opera is just over 43 minutes of groundbreaking operatic rock.
One of the things that makes the album so remarkable is the clever use of layering with vocals and guitars. Tracks are diverse in narration, with one song acting as a hate letter, another a love letter and rock anthems split in between.
This classic rock album rewards listeners with a symphony of instruments, ranging from piano to over-driven guitars—even a harp appears on the song “Love of My Life”—but really, it’s the remarkable voice of Freddie Mercury that speaks to listeners, with an almost Broadway-style theatricality.
The album, produced by the platinum and gold album slinger Roy Thomas Baker (The Cars, Journey, Motley Crüe), boasts one of the most iconic rock songs of all-time, “Bohemian Rhapsody” (à la Wayne’s World).
Find a copy, slip your headphones on, and enjoy the musical adventure that Queen has given to rock fans to enjoy.
Trial track: “Bohemian Rhapsody”
– A.J. Cordeiro