DJ Dolores, “Ciranda Da Madrugada”

This is one of those songs that seems like it was assembled so
carefully. It’s in the electronica-pastiche mode, with a sultry female
vocal in Portuguese and a samba band playing behind it. It also has an
accordion, but the instrument is so tight on the beat that it sounds
much more like a sample of an accordion than a real accordion. The
real star of this song is the guitar line, which sounds harsh and
acrid and complements the vaguely Elza Soares–sounding woman by
reinforcing her air of menace.

 Meanwhile, because it’s a dance-electronica kind of record, it kind of
loses track after a chorus or two, in order to give the listener time
to really understand what’s going on. The bass keeps bouncing atop the
samba drums and below the woman, singing these long melodic lines, and
the sawing sound of the accordion.

 [Meanwhile, here at the air terminal, where I’m writing these reviews,
I look over at the television, and there is a woman in a
platinum-blonde wig driving evasively. It kind of goes along with the
tune, in a weird way.]

Compay Segundo, “Viejos Sones de Santiago”

Compay Segundo is one of the Buena Vista Social Club musicians. I
believe he’s the guitarist. This morsel has him playing (if it’s not
him, I do apologize) behind a set of female singers, kind of like a
Cuban Pipettes, real relaxed and on the beat. It’s a good salsa, for

 But in the end the guitar playing doesn’t go completely bananas, or
sound as if he just lit the axe on fire and is still playing it, the
way that Franco did with similar rhythms. I have to say, I prefer the
Lingala singing of Kékélé over the same rhythms and nearly the same
instrumentation. Lingala is truly the international language of love.

 This does have a nice little four-bar guitar solo, and then he chimes
in singing on the last chorus. Nice ending!

Serge Gainsbourg, “Là-bas C’est Naturel”

Oh boy, finally a real bomb of a song. There’s something about the
Gainsbourg approach, even beyond his French-lover persona, that makes
his music irresistible. This one starts out with a kind of
jungly-rhythm, then the female chorus pops in with the wordless
singing, le-le-le-le-le-le and so on.

 I think what it is about Gainsbourg is his willingness to submit to a
relatively narrow dynamic range, especially in the difference between
the verse and the chorus. It creates a sense of tension in the song,
that matches up with the clippity-cloppity beat and the crazy jungle
sounds. I’m waiting for the song to explode into something that Sly
and the Family Stone would do, and it never does. Fantastic.

Charanga Cakewalk, “Dirty Cumbia”

This sounds exactly like Forro in the Dark for the first half-minute.
It must be the accordion and the lilting rhythm. Once they start
singing, however, you can tell the difference. Forro in the Dark sing
in Portuguese, not Spanish like this one, and these guys are also much
less dynamic than Forro. They are kind of whispering along the verse.

 It actually sounds like the song from Triplets of Belleville,
but then in the descansa it changes around and sounds more
traditionally Latin American. I’ll call it so-so. Lyrics are bland,
also. Maybe better to hear it performed live in a dance club.

Spoon, “The Way We Get By”

I think someone sent me this one. Britt sings the first chorus in his
trademark Spoon way. The guy has a pretty recognizable voice for
someone who sings without a noticeable accent: that is to say that he
has a phrasing that you can pick up when you hear him singing.

 ‘The Way We Get By’ is built on a piano riff and some other
instruments accompanying the keyboard. It could be a Ben Folds song if
it didn’t have the inimitable vocals. The lyrics don’t really
transport me, and it seems as if it needs a video or a string section
for me really to get into it.

Macha – “Believe”

I have no idea what this song is or what it’s doing on my music player.

 The opening intro, with phone-pad tones chirping out the melody, seems
jarringly bright compared with the opening verse and the soft vocals.
This one plus the Bola Johnson could make a nice mini-set of
garçons fragiles en anglais, although Bola wasn’t singing in

 Aha! It’s a cover of the Cher chestnut. “Do you believe…in life after love?”

 Jonathan’s snap judgment: So-so. The dialpad-tone accompaniment comes
across as gimmicky, but then so does covering a Cher song without
belting it like the karaoke veteran inside you.

Bola Johnson – “Buroda Mase”

If I can fill you in on this song while I wait here at the airterminal…

 It’s a dub-style dance tune, where the drummer sounds toward the end
of every measure as if he’s just nodded off to sleep for a quick
sixteenth beat. Bola sings the verses lightly with the bass playing in
front of the trap drums, and a little bit of rhythm guitar and a
little bit of lead guitar.

 On the choruses, Bola has a pretty forceful voice, and you can tell
that he learned from the James Brown school of funk. While the trumpet
plays, you can imagine him vogueing from side to side.