Photo by Eliot Lee Hazel
There’s a certain restlessness hidden in the sleepy rhythms of Rodrigo Amarante’s music. Seemingly his entire life, the Brazilian native has been on the move. “I have always felt like a foreigner, imagined myself as an explorer,” Amarante says, and that translates to his music. First starting out with the rock band Los Hermanos, Amarante moved out to LA to work on Devendra Banhart’s 2007 album, Smokey Rolls Down Thunder Canyon. There he befriended singer/multi-instrumentalist Binki Shapiro and Fabrizio Moretti, the metronomic drummer for the Strokes. The three of them teamed up as Little Joy and released a charming debut that drew a line between Brazilian bossa nova and the Strokes’ New York cool.
After laying low for a few years, Amarante returns with his first proper solo album, the quietly stunning Cavalo. He’s a talented songwriter, penning in English, French, and his native Portuguese, and his cool croon perfectly matches the bare arrangements. While his list of contacts is impressive–everyone from Banhart to Kristen Wiig appear on the record–Amarante sounds just fine on his own. “Hourglass” packs a half-dozen musical ideas into a nimble pop tune, mixing together psychedelia, jazz, and tropicalia while a stylophone buzzes underneath. It’s this kind of restlessness that’s served Amarante so well all these years.