Somehow, spring was sidestepped in favor of a potentially sweltering summer. But a scorching summer means lazing around under the shade of a wide tree, ice tea in hand, with a cheerful yet calming soundtrack in the background. It means pretty sundresses and bright laughter, lounging about and perhaps enjoying a cool but quickly melting ice cream. It’s time to welcome easy summer days with open arms.
1. Mallu Magalhães (Brazil) – “Velha e Louca”
São Paulo native, Mallu Magalhães, got attention for her music as many artists in this century seem to grab attention: through her MySpace page. Though she started writing songs in English, most of the material she produces now is sung in her native language, Portuguese. After releasing her debut album in 2008 and garnering acclaim and notice nationwide in Brazil, her third album, Pitanga (2011), shows growth and maturity in her songwriting and instrumentation.
Magalhães’s voice is precious. It almost sounds instrumental as she vocally plucks at notes in a way that is endearing and delightful. The instrumentals are equally as charming. Over the layer of a constant, soft electric guitar riff there are several other plucked string instruments that create a cohesive and soothing texture to the track. Tambourines keep the percussion from fading into the background and a steady bass line keeps the song solidly anchored and balances Magalhães’s airy voice.
2. Los Hermanos (Brazil) – “O Vento”
Formed in 1997, this four-piece band from Rio de Janeiro has received a great amount of national success in Brazil and has managed to break into some international markets, touring in Argentina, Japan, Spain, and Portugal. Their eponymous debut album, released two years after their formation, went platinum in Brazil and they have played at major festivals, sharing the stage with Kraftwerk and Radiohead.
There’s definitely something relaxing about listening to a song in Portuguese. It’s a language that’s naturally smooth with soft consonants and simple vowels. Paired with the lull of a gentle bass and serene, but rhythmic guitars, this is the song to go to when driving on a restful, summer day, passing by a scenic coastline. Even if you’re not moving, it’s also nice to listen to when chilling in your backyard, tanning and napping and just having a good day.
3. Tulipa Ruiz (Brazil) – “Efêmera”
Another singer-songwriter hailing from São Paulo, Tulipa Ruiz also brought her music to people’s attention through MySpace. Not only is she a musician, she also dabbles in art and designed some of the cover art for her albums. Her debut album, Efêmera, was released in 2010 and is also featured on the FIFA ’11 soundtrack.
Ruiz’s vocals fittingly match this song, as she sings about a beautiful yet ephemeral day, her voice lilting and never lingering too long on notes to match the fleeting feeling of the track. Strong brass instruments offset her breezy vocals and the lighthearted percussion. If a gentle, summer breeze could be a song, this is what it would sound like.
4. Yuna (Malaysia) – “Remember My Name”
Singing mostly English songs – though she does have some Malay tracks – Yuna began her music career while still in law school. After much praise and success in her home country, she was picked up by FADER Label in New York in 2010. The first single from her debut full-length album, “Live Your Life,” was produced by Pharrell Williams. She counts Sia, Fiona Apple and Feist among her influences.
“Remember My Name,” off her eponymous debut album released last year, is a bright, optimistic track that develops in intricate, detailed layers. The song opens with mellow handclaps and harmonized vocal “oohs” on a loop pedal. Yuna’s distinctly relaxed voice sings about rising up and being memorable, not letting her mistakes bring her down. Her quiet confidence resonates in her lyrics and is reflected in the steady and catchy guitar line. It’s a song about resilience and it’s reflected in the build-up of the track. Slowly but surely, the track progresses with added rhythmic lines and instruments, climaxing with the addition of sweeping violins and ending with a buoyant guitar line.
5. Corinne Bailey Rae (UK) – “Put Your Records On”
Leeds native, Corinne Bailey Rae, released her debut album in 2006 where it shot to #1 on the UK Albums Charts. It would be her most successful album, becoming certified platinum in not just her native country but also in the US, Canada and Ireland. “Put Your Records On” is the second single off this album and really helped propel it to success in the States.
Rae cleverly opens the track with, “Three little birds / sat on my window / and they told me I don’t need to worry,” recalling a certain reggae singer’s affirmation that listeners don’t have to worry because everything is going to be all right. Rae is similarly as comforting and her carefree vocals match the sunny and empowering lyrics as she sings about having confidence to chase your dreams and let your hair down. The instrumentals are simple and coaxing but it’s really Rae’s lyrics that stand out. They’re not too corny but not too heavy-handed. She sings like a best friend.