After four years of silence, Marisa Monte reappeared with two simultaneously released albums, Universo ao Meu Redor and Infinito Particular. On Universo ao Meu Redor, Monte thoroughly explores, and in her own way interprets, the sound of Brazil's most famous music style, samba. This was a much anticipated project, as Monte's few earlier samba recordings turned out splendid. And Universo ao Meu Redor doesn't in any way leave the listener disappointed. Timeless and modern at the same time, it is a mature album of gentle sambas, replete with rare elegance and beauty. The bulk of the CD was composed by the now firmly established and highly acclaimed songwriting trio of Arnaldo Antunes, Carlinhos Brown, and Monte herself. Sprinkled in between though are a couple of older, tastefully reinterpreted samba classics by other composers and there are also two newly written (and inspired) songs by Paulinho da Viola and Adriana Calcanhotto. The soundscape, melodies, and lyrics are all very traditional, but the music has the same soothingly dreamy atmosphere that characterized Tribalistas. Thanks to the excellent production, there is also an ever so slight spark of psychedelia to the album, which helps in creating the general escapist mood. Monte's vocal performance is flawless as ever, with her voice floating effortlessly and in perfect harmony with the rest of the music. Songs such as "Bonde do Dom," "Três Letrinhas," "Vai Saber?," "A Alma e a Matéria," and "Universo ao Meu Redor," all enchantingly beautiful, are as close as you get to perfection in form of samba. A somewhat amusing detail is David Byrne's cameo appearance as vocalist on "Statue of Liberty." Universo ao Meu Redor is Monte's most mature, even, and ultimately impressive album to date.
AllMusic Review by Philip Jandovský