Saudade is a Portuguese word which is said to be the essence of bossa nova. Essentially, Saudade has several meanings – a longing for something or someone that is lost, a contented melancholy, or, simply, the presence of absence. Giovanni Condolini – “Saudade” liner notes

With Saudade, the seventh full-length studio album just released on 1st April 2014 last on their own Eighteenth Street Lounge record label, Washington DC-based duo Thievery Corporation (Rob Garza and Eric Hilton) pay homage to the classic late-1950s & 1960s sound of Brazilian bossa-nova and the vintage film soundtracks from that era. Saudade evokes the singing of Cape Verdean diva Cesária Évora, the music of Antonio Carlos Jobim, Ennio Morricone soundtracks or (Sean Connery-era) James Bond film music as well as the modern electro-samba sounds of French outfit Nouvelle Vague or Thievery Corporation past vocalist Bebel Gilberto.

Thievery Corporation - Saudade (2014)
Thievery Corporation – Saudade (2014)

But the longing and nostalgia in question here could well hark back to the pre-digital sound and production ethos. From the length of the recording (42mn), the stylish retro cover artwork reminiscent of 1960s psychedelic art or of vintage Blue Note jazz recordings, the font used on the back sleeve, the song listing as side A & B, even down to the worn circle on the front cover suggesting a used LP, Thievery Corporation’s new recording was entirely designed with the physical vinyl object in mind.

Karina Zeviani: Meu nêgo

The second song of the opus, “Meu nêgo” features regular TC and Nouvelle Vague collaborator Karina Zeviani who, along with four other female vocalists (Bitter:Sweet singer Shana Halligan, Lou Lou Ghelichkhani , Elin Melgarejo and Natalia Clavier) singing in English, French, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese make up the warm and “quiet sound of Thievery Corporation”.

Lou Lou Ghelichkhani: No more disguise

Classic sound means classic instrumentation. “What we’re doing here is pretty traditional and timeless-sounding, and in that it’s completely contrarian” says Eric Hilton. With himself on bass and Rob Garza on guitar together with three other guitarists, drums, percussions, horns, keyboards and a string ensemble, Saudade is primarily an acoustic album. Featuring Lou Lou Ghelichkhani on vocals and the incredibly lavish orchestral strings of the Columbia Heights Ensemble, the superb downtempo bolero “No more disguise” is emblematic of the album’s retro and addictive sound.