Album Review: Tagua Tagua – ‘Tanto’ : Lush and lived in Brazilian nu-soul.

The Breakdown

An album of open-hearted love songs, simmering in nu-soul vibes with a subtle flavouring of today’s bosa.
Wonderwheel Recordings 8.7

Riding the upward surge of new Brazilian pop comes Felipe Puperi (a.k.a Tagua Tagua) with solo album two, Tanto, available now via those global dance aficionados Wonderwheel Recordings. Acclaimed in his home country for some sharp production work and fronting the spacey alt-rockers Wannabe Jalva, his solo debut, 2019’s Inteiro Metade, turned the spotlight on Puperi himself as a crafter of fine tunes leaning in a soul pop direction. He now looks back on that significant shift as “… kind of re-discovering my references and myself as a composer.”

His new collection Tanto represents another step on in defining the Tagua Tagua sound. It’s an album of open-hearted love songs, simmering in nu-soul vibes with a subtle flavouring of today’s bosa. Sure the bare passion of classic soul comes into it, as does the submerged tension of D’Angelo funk but the foundation remains a sure-footed feel for the essential understatement of timeless Brazilian pop.

Neatly Tanto, the album’s title track, shows off this refined blend’s heady potential. There’s an unhurried sensuous sway to the song brushed along by the light rhythmic trickle, rippling guitar clicks and the calmest of keyboard fills. Such an easy-going arrangement allows space for Puperi’s day dreaming vocal to tell his ‘love for the sake of it’ story, reflective, thoughtful and lifted in all the right places by falsetto harmonies. Add to that a super-soul organ swirl in the bridge plus those illusive bosa melody lines and you arrive at a succulent slice of sultry dance-pop. It all comes down to the detail and Tagua Tagua’s canny appreciation of such necessities are on show time and time again on this album.

Pra Trás takes the rolling dip of classic mid-tempo soul seriously with its trim guitar and swooping Philly strings. Puperi’s immaculate vocals again seek out the higher end, not just because he can but to bring a sensitive emotional uplift to this song about leaving behind and moving on. The sashaying ballad, OODH, finds a similar intensity, matching slippery guitar phrases with theatrical violins in its flourishing arrangement. The moment that an electro-shower of a chorus bursts open you know that the lush pop high-bar is being tested here.

Not that Tagua Tagua is after something rigidly retro on Tanto. Charles Bradley and Shugi Otis may be cited as reference points but this is framing rather than the whole picture. Colours arrives relatively upbeat and confidently contemporary, all rubbery synths, burbling bass-lines, fluttering guitars and a swooning pop chorus. Easing along with the strolling beats, Puperi sings gently with a whispering touch alongside the melody. Then there’s the tingling Me Leva, another leaving song, which slouches around to some vamping synths and an unhurried snare. This effortless ambience could get overlooked as bland but Puperi maybe voices weariness here in that he’s ‘already tired of this place’. So beneath the sheen a possible sadness?

Not that Tanto dives too deep into any dark wave, Brisa arrives next with a freshness and zip. The sauntering funk momentum, the slinkiest of bass lines and a hook that begs to be snapped at, this cut simply glistens as the layers of synth, guitar and voices ripple together. It’s not the first time that the effortless musicality on Tanto catches your breath. The playing is intuitively connected to the songs. Of course much of this is down to Felipe Puperi’s own considerable multi-instrumentalist talents (he covers guitar, piano, bass and keys duties on the album) but the groove focused economy of Leo Mattos’s drumming and the guitar shading of João Augusto Lopes bring a rounded, almost band sound to the album.

So although, as Tagua Tagua, Puperi has definitely moved on from his space rock band days in Wannabe Jalva, he still retains some of that guitar toned dynamic in his music. Take Te Dizer. It may have a crisp soul ballad at heart but the restrained urgency of the electric guitars, all chord drives and echoing licks, take it somewhere in the Whitney (the band that is) direction. A similar psych-soul vibe jangles through the yearning Barcelona, where the spikey guitar flicks and twisting lead runs blend with Puperi’s peerless falsetto to provide hints of weightless dream-pop, Tame Impala style. Then there’s Starbucks, a hustling riff, woozy tremelo action and sighing chorus that suggests some kind of resignation.

These songs on Tanto set their warming shine and vibrant sophistication within the urban sprawl of the day to day. Tagua Tagua sings about leaving, loss and moving on, traces of people and places, the wonder and weariness of relationships. Nothing new perhaps but he is going about things differently and Tanto represents a fine taster of more to come.

Get your copy of Tanto by Tagua Tagua from your local record store or direct from BANDCAMP

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