Tropicalia hits big

Sound Salvation

If you had to guess what the best reviewed album of the year so far is, I'm sure many would guess the latest releases by Bruce Springsteen, Destroyer or maybe Neko Case. At the very least, you'd expect it to be music released this year.

But according to, a Web-site that compiles reviews from a variety sources, the one album you should buy this year is full of music released in the late 60s. Chronicling the avant garde music style of the same name, Tropicalia:A Brazilian Revolution in Sound is an import-only collection of the genre's most important artists.

After a few listens to songs such as Os Mutantes "Bat Macumba" and "Jimmy, Renda-se" by Tom Ze, who also has a new solo album out this year that happens to be Metacritic's second-highest rated album so far, it's easy to see Tropicalia's influences on musicians like Beck or David Byrne. Beck is such a fan of the music that he made a record, called fittingly Tropicalia, of music inspired by those pioneering groups.

Created during the height of Brazil's military dictatorship, Tropicalia combined everything from art rock tape loops, Samba, the Beatles and surf guitars to make a catchy, crazy and ridiculously danceable sound. The music was considered so dangerous by the authoritarian regime that several of its biggest names were arrested and eventually exiled.

But at it's best the music almost a pure expression of joy created via sound. No track better encapsulates that feeling than Gilberto Gil's "Procissao." With guitars Dick Dale would be proud of and drum beats that sound an awful lot like Ringo Starr, the song is a three minute burst of light.

So why hasn't anyone heard of this album? Because it's only available as an import, which means most retail outlets and, now more importantly, iTunes aren't carrying it. Well that, and it's sung entirely in Portuguese.

But the Internet is a wonderful thing. Buying imported albums is a lot easier than it was just 10 years ago, when you needed a good independent music store with even better distributors.

Now albums like Tropicalia are just a click away at or some other specialty stores.

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