Caetano Veloso, ‘Abraçaço’ (Nonesuch)
The stunning final installment of longtime Brazilian superstar Caetano Veloso’s trilogy with the trio of youngsters known as Banda Ce, “Abraçaço” (big hug), kicks off with an irresistibly boingo-bouncing paean to bossa nova and its creator Joao Gilberto (the “wizard of Juazeiro”: one of many oblique references, including one to Bob Dylan as “the Jewish bard of Minnesota”).
As always with Veloso, whose late ’60s rock update of Brazilian music came to be known as Tropicalismo, the music is as painstakingly crafted as the often politically-inspired and poetically rock-hard words. His keen observations slalom here between the jarringly exposed moving parts of wonky electro-acoustic rock – twanging (or twinkling) guitar lines, industrial scronk, crackling drum beats and zig-zag melodies that won’t behave.
Veloso’s honeyed ballad voice occasionally pops above the swirl, notably on the darkly existential ballad, “Estou Triste” and the album’s gripping closer, “Gayana,” which has an accordion-like keyboard cushion.
Other highlights include the ominous, rhythmically sprung “O Imperio da Lei,” possibly a reference to the 2005 murder of activist sister Dorothy Stang; “Um Communista,” a somber, liquid requiem for Brazilian revolutionary martyr Carlos Marighella (“life without utopia/I cannot conceive as existing”); a crooning, unprintably sensuous love ballad with a sumptuous guitar solo, “Vinco”; and “Parabens,” a percolating dance-floor fling with happiness, dressed in colorful electronics.
Veloso may be 71, but he still writes and sings with the obsessed heart of a wise young man.