Thievery Corporation’s Saudade presents an interesting conundrum: in their oeuvre, the collective is so successful in melding eclectic international styles (dj/live/world-focused music), that this album, which delves exclusively into one style—bossa nova—seems limited against previous output.
And yet, maybe that’s the joke: the word “saudade” is untranslatable into English, meaning something like “a longing for something that is lost”. In listening to this album, I miss the collective’s signature mélange of electronic, reggae, Bollywood, and continental James Bond soundtrack-sounding music.
Preferred cuts include Quem Me Leva, Firelight, Sola in Citta, and Para Sempre, all characterized by depth, complex rhythms and a thematic intrigue that invites the listener to explore further. Kudos to the duo for bringing muses including longtime Thievery cohort LouLou Ghelichkhani, Elin Melgarejo, Nouvelle Vague singer Karina Zeviani, Argentine chanteuse Natalia Clavier, former Bitter:Sweet singer/songwriter Shana Halligan and Federico Aubele along for the ride.
Saudade is a light and enjoyable collection. Rhythmically textured, bossa nova’s limitation derives from the A/B style of the melodies and harmonies. Yet the haunting vocal delivery adds a mystery (supplemented by Portuguese and French vocals) that enhances the drama of the songs. There is no question that the production style conjures a deep emotional state of nostalgic melancholic longing for feelings and experiences that once brought excitement, pleasure, contentment, triggering the senses and inviting reincarnation. But the lack of influential variety can get a little old, illustrating why Thievery Corporation’s hallmark mélange of dj/live/world-focused music is so conspicuous in its absence.