Coming off the paranoid and dark Culture of Fear, where Orwellian ideas and dub beats filled the speakers, Thievery Corporation do a severe about-face with Saudade, an album that embraces the bossa nova and Brazilian rhythms, and ups the organic material content of the group's output. Horns, strings, and nylon-string guitars are hired, rather than sampled, on an album where Thievery members Rob Garza and Eric Hilton play mostly guitar and bass. They also curate and produce, coming up with a fine set of wistful tunes and suitable, alluring singers when it comes to the former, but they come up a bit short when it comes to the latter. Vocalist Lou Lou Ghelichkhani is a wonderfully subdued siren who can deliver with all the breezy sway required for beautiful songs like "Decollage" and "Bateau Rouge," and yet the production is all strings and vocals up front as everything else falls toward the back, making these bossa nova recordings more "hot" than "warm." Leave a Caipirinha in the sun too long and it's the same kind of almost delicious, but with the same kid gloves being used on the mixing board during "Para Sempre," the sharp sonics actually help the up-and-sashaying performance from Elin Melgarejo. When Shana Halligan searches the "Depth of My Soul" on the not-so-bossa closer, the strolling bassline is punchy enough to drive home her pathos, and if there are Brazilian spy films, "Claridad" and vocalist Natalia Clavier are spot-on for their soundtracks. The woozy "Nos Dois" with Karina Zeviani ups the Thievery Corp content (nigh time production and notes that dissolve before they disappear) and suggests what could have been if Saudade better balanced its reverence and reverb.
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AllMusic Review by David Jeffries