My 10 favourite Brazilian music albums

When people ask me what music I like, I used to say “uh, I dunno?” and then I used to say “everything”. But while both of those are true, they’re not very illuminating nor fodder for further conversation. So now about half the time I say “Brazilian music”. What kind of Brazilian music? Mostly the 60’s and 70’s mpb-samba-bossa nova-tropicalia kind of music. Keeping in mind that I don’t understand music at all, and without any consideration for what I think is actually best by some sort of general metric, here are ten of my favourite albums of Brazilian music.

Caetano Veloso – Transa Defiant and angry and sad and sarcastic and jubilant and always changing. Wonderfully dipping into quotes of the best Brazilian music of the era, and freely mixing English and Portuguese. You Don’t Know Me Nine Out of Ten It’s a Long Way

Gal Costa – Legal Another of the best from that maximally eclectic start-of-tropicalia aesthetic. Always lovely as it switches between quiet, sweet lullabies and freewheeling electric guitar yells. Deixa Sangrar The Archaic Lonely Star Blues London, London

Jorge Ben – 10 anos depois Jorge Ben has an unmatchable ability to make everything unbelievably catchy. Potpourris of several songs at once let him do this to maximal effect. You’ll be singing some phrase from this record, guaranteed, whether you know what it means or not. A Minha Menina País Tropical Vendedor de Bananas

Tom Zé – Estudando a samba Combines the requisite catchiness and songcraft with a bizarre sensibility. At times melancholy, at times just crazy, but always somehow a little off, in a wonderful way. Vai

Astrud Gilberto – The Astrud Gilberto Album I actually haven’t heard this album as an album all the way through, but Astrud Gilberto being probably every North American’s first Brazilian music love, she was also mine. Once I Loved Água de Beber Só tinha de ser com você

Baden Powell – Os Afro-sambas Amazing guitar skills, creepy songs about marrying your love at the bottom of the sea in homage to an afro-brazilian goddess, you know, that kind of thing. Canto de Ossanha Tristeza e Solidão Canto de Iemanjá

Zélia Barbosa – Sertão e Favelas Simply arranged, percussion-heavy, powerful “songs of protest” (that’s what the American re-release is called) – but sometimes of resigned poverty. Funeral do Lavrador Opinião Canção da Terra

Chico Buarque – Construção Chico Buarque is the only person that I can think of that has written a song I like and a novel I like. This record has some of my favourites, songswise. Cordão Cotidiano Samba de Orly

Cartola – 1976 My favourite choro album. Do you seriously doubt the greatness of this record after seeing the cover (Cartola is the guy on the left)? Sala de Recepção Preciso Me Encontrar Aconteceu

Adoniran Barbosa – 1974 Jokes, self-sabotaging songs, all in the real dialect of São Paulo. Adoniran Barbosa is your cool grandpa, if he was the coolest grandpa ever. Abrigo de Vagabundo Saudosa Maloca Trem das Onze

 

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