Luísa Maita's sophomore album is effortlessly cool, a lush contemporary fantasy under neon lights.
Luísa Maita is cooler than ever.
A triumphant return to the studio six years after debut release Lero-Lero, Luísa Maita's Fio da Memória is a wonderland, a lush contemporary fantasy under neon lights. All the way through it, Maita is that true cool, that effortless cool, the kind of cool everyone wants to be around. On this sophomore album, Maita's music is a strangely cohesive collection of contradictions: laid-back, passionate, casual, all-in. Smooth, but never too slick.
It's also dreamy. The echoes on Fio da Memória are subtle, but they abound, the perfect addition to Maita's eerie, ethereal voice, a powerful instrument that hovers somewhere between smoke and fire and always remains untouchable. This is a new and very welcome quality. On Maita's debut album in 2010, her voice was beautiful, but softer moments sometimes came off as weak. Not so on Fio da Memória, where decrescendos only coax the listener closer.
If her voice is wind and fire, her music is solid earth, built on a foundation a dozen different styles of percussion spread out over the tracklist, including everything from hand drums to lightly brushed cymbals to machines. On the best songs, though, the wildest ones where everything is unleashed, it's the heat between voice and guitar that makes for the most tantalizing moments: when Maita takes flight, the strings are always in hot pursuit. Fluid and electric, they know exactly how to put her in the best light, whether that means quick, lightly-picked arpeggios like those on the title track or the dirty, anguished chords of "Volta" against which Maita can truly begin to belt.
Coolness, though, means leaving a little mystery, and for all the sultry, starry goodness of Fio da Memória, it also holds you at arm's length, never letting you get too close. There's an illusion of intimacy in Maita's expressive crooning, but she always keeps a little distance, a strict separation between the music and the audience. It's intangible and only adds to her role as an elusive chanteuse, further intriguing her unseen audience.
Maita is at the top of the MPB class with Fio da Memória. The album's variety is sumptuous, centered around hip, perfectly modern electronica (opening track "Na Asa" is a perfect example of this, oozing confidence and just enough youth; "Musica Popular" sways, starry and tropical) but also embracing samba-tinged rock (English-language track "Around You" has that distinct African influence, while the more sensual "Olé" follows a slower, more stretched-out 2/4 rhythm), as well as bits and pieces of anything else that can be found on the famously multicultural streets of São Paulo.
Luísa Maita knows how to chill out and how to heat up. She knows how much grit to bring to the table, and how to keep things pretty at the same time. She can entice, she can command, and she can do it all without breaking a sweat. Now, with Fio da Memória out in the world, we, too, know what she can do. Maita has set the bar high for herself again, but, as she's proven here, there's no bar Maita can set that she can't climb right over as soon as she's ready. Hopefully, we won't have to wait six years for the next album, but even if we do, Maita has proven that her music is worth waiting for.