In naming her new long-awaited album, Charlotte Dos Santos looked not only to her Brazilian roots but to ideas of change and transformation. Morfo is named for the blue butterfly iconic to the forests of the Amazon. This insect seems in constant flux through space and time, growing from a neon caterpillar to its full and almost unearthly iridescence. You’d be hard-pressed to find a more aesthetically pleasing analogue to Dos Santos’s career arc so far. The jazzy slow jams of 2017 release Cleo established her as a heavenly chanteuse with pleasant vintage vibes. On 2020’s EP Harvest Time, she moved into an even more ethereal melodic sphere with pastorally-tinged musings on the world.
Morfo is a continuation and amplification of everything that makes Charlotte Dos Santos an entrancing artist: gossamer voice, luscious atmosphere, and a pervasive sense of wonder. There’s more of it here than ever before. Dos Santos embraces her multifaceted sensibilities over Morfo’s 13 tracks of quasi-psychedelic soul. She sings of home, heartbreak, love, and ancestry alike with inclinations toward the cosmic, every emotion interconnected in an expansive sonic universe of synth-powered keys, strings, drums, and radiant vocals.
Though she’s often placed in the jazz realm, Dos Santos blends a wide range of genres in her work. Certainly, jazz is foundational; mellow “Crooked House” and bass-heavy “The Player and the Fool” have astral leanings. The latter track also hearkens to early 2000s neo-soul and R&B, major parts of the album’s overall aura on tracks like “Patience”, “Angel in Disguise”, and “Just Sayin'”.
Slowed-down reggaetón beats mark “Hello Hello”. Samba, bossa nova, and other Brazilian sounds enter the soundscape for “Away From Me”, “Filha do Sol”, and “Bye”. Disco-adjacent sounds add sparkle to both the chillout piece “Cupid’s Bow” and the energetic robot anthem “Ghost in the Shell”. The closing piece, “Aria 4 Arien”, is Dos Santos at her dreamiest. Dos Santos’ voice is exquisite in every context, a thing of understated power as it moves with blissful ease into dizzying heights.
For all her travels through upper echelons, Dos Santos’ music isn’t unfathomable. Her magic is grounded in human experiences. She’s insecure against a backdrop of rising violins on “Angel in Disguise”, and unpacks intergenerational lessons while singing lyrics originally penned by carioca artist Edu Lobo on “Filha do Sol”. Dos Santos cautiously contemplates new love against zero gravity layers of sound and elemental invocations: “Watery, watery, watery / You know that I’m from the sea / Fiery, fiery, fiery / Careful so you don’t hurt me.”
Charlotte Dos Santos doesn’t entirely change shape on Morfo, nor does she need to do so. Instead, she unfurls her wings in new ways, taking flight as an elevated version of herself. Her work here is polished and full, an intricate display of soul, sentiment, and celestial ways of being. In short, it’s everything you could ask from Dos Santos’s largest opus to date. Morfo is a thoughtfully crafted explosion, the most significant step yet on Charlotte Dos Santos’s creative path forward.