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For fans of artists like Jorge Ben and João Gilberto, there’s just something about a nylon-string guitar and the Portuguese language that’s hard to resist. Brazilian multi-instrumentalist Rodrigo Amarante brings some of both with his debut solo record, but manages to mix in indie flavor and more.
Amarante may not be a household name, but he’s collaborated with Devendra Banhart for years and has received accolades with his bands Little Joy (with Strokes drummer Fabrizio Moretti) and Los Hermanos. He holds down most all the singing and instruments throughout Cavalo, but both Banhart and Moretti make appearances here (as does Kristin Wiig, interestingly, who contributes vocals on three tracks).
From crooning the gorgeous and unhurried opener “Nada Em Vão,” Amarante wastes no time jumping into the catchy, Strokes-flavored “Hourglass.” A few tracks later, “Irene” is simply a man and his guitar playing a delicate ballad that conjures an instant daydream of sitting in a Rio café in the late ’60s after a lazy beach day. That’s until you get to the ’70s-kissed funky samba of “Manau,” which would probably get just about any dance party started. Cavalo is a diverse and entertaining listen indeed.
Must-hear track: “Hourglass,” “Irene”