No other album in 2006 will be this lovely, or this relentlessly weird.
I just accidentally deleted a really long version of a review of this record, but that's okay; I didn't really like the other one anyway. It was filled with critic-type words and critic-type sentiments trying to intellectualize why I love this album so much. I hate that kind of thing, but I was doing it because I want you to love it just as much as I do. But forget all that.
Here's the deal: Cibelle is a young singer-songwriter from Sao Paulo who now lives in London. The Shine of Dried Electric Leaves is her second solo album. No other record in 2006 will be this lovely, or this relentlessly weird.
It starts way out in left field with a cover of Tom Waits' song "Green Grass". Over plinks and plonks both acoustic and electronic, harp sounds and toy piano sounds and a reggae beat played on acoustic guitar, she sings as quietly as possible. This, combined with Waits' folkloric lyrics, gives the impression that the singer is not quite letting herself feel the emotions she wants to feel. Not too many vocalists can get away with this after only two records, but she nails it. (I guess I should also mention that she is the track's producer.)
It is almost impossible to compare this to the Bjork-ish glitchtronica of "Lembra", with tiny whispering Cibelles all over the track and strings swooping in from everywhere, or the cascading warped piano lines of "Flying Home", a song with 50 different parts but no real center -- the only real connection between these songs is her ambition, and her voice. Her main collaborators, producers Mike Lindsay and Apollo Nove, represent two different continents, but both know how to create space enough for her voice, and her ambition, to shine through.
Some of the songs are funkier than others; this seems to happen more often when she is working with someone else than when she is solo. "Arrete la, Menina", a collaboration with singer Seu Jorge, keeps breaking into fresh samba-pop; "Minha Neguinha" has one foot in Tropicalistic psychedelia and another foot in modern freak-folk; "Mad Man Song" (where the special guest is a Euro-beatbox named Spleen) is created entirely out of the human voice and the sounds that can be made out of coffee cups, spoons, and sugar. And her version of Caetano Veloso's "London, London", done with Devendra Banhart, manages to turn the saddest of songs into a sexy duet with vamping and riffing and scatting and every other trick in either of their bags.
I'd tell you more about the infinite whatever of "Cajuina" and the immediacy something of "Train Station" and how "City People" does this one thing perfectly, but it's late and I have to go to dinner. This is my ideal sound and you need to hear it now because then it will be your ideal sound too.