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O Que Você Quer Saber de Verdade (2011)

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Marisa Monte

It has been over five years since Marisa Monte's last studio albums, the stunning 2006 double release of Infinito Particular and Universo ao Meu Redor. Each of these ambitious records was a masterpiece in its own right, the former showcasing Monte's finely tuned, cosmopolitan ear to contemporary music, and the latter her deep-seated love for traditional Brazilian music. In that context -- but only in that context, mind -- their long-awaited successor, Que Você Quer Saber de Verdade, can feel like a slight disappointment. One would have expected Monte to spend all that time dreaming up an even grander artistic project, yet Que Você Quer Saber de Verdade seems to have been conceived as a minor work, a transition piece. Rather than looking to the future or at the past, this pastoral interlude of an album has a classicist, atemporal feel. For the most part, it does not even sound particularly Brazilian, as most compositions are chamber ballads built around a classical piano paired with string and wind instruments, with guitars and percussion conspicuously toned down. In fact, many of these songs first bring to mind those lush, late-'60s Françoise Hardy records, rather than, say, Gal Costa or João Gilberto; so much so that when tracks 11 and 12 (out of 13) turn out to be a forró and a baticum, the sudden change in tempo and rhythms feels almost disorienting, rather than a homecoming. Having duly noted all these objections (born mostly in relation to Monte's previous work and subsequent expectations, rather than on an individual analysis of this record), it should be stated that Que Você Quer Saber de Verdade is an utterly exquisite piece of music. Made by Monte with the help of all of her usual suspects (the extraordinary Arnaldo Antunes and Carlinhos Brown, as well as the less visible but ever present Dadi, who also co-produces), everything about this album exudes an effortless, bucolic charm. Furthermore, the fact that the music is more often stately, instead of intriguing or exotic, focuses the ear more than ever on the luminous wonder that is Monte's voice. Listening to marvels such as "Depois" or "Ainda Bem," one would even be tempted to say that she has never sung better, if it were not impossible for anyone to sing better than Monte in her previous albums. Her voice is the perfect embodiment of the quiet happiness and understanding her gentle lyrics advocate, and can presumably bring inner peace to the most troubled of souls. The true epitome of grace. ~ Mariano Prunes