album reviews

Six Degrees Records/Starbucks Entertainment (2007)

Brazilian singer Maria do Céu Whitaker Pocas, who snagged a Latin Grammy nomination last year for best new artist, is a sultry lounge singer who performs under the stage name CéU. So it's fitting that her 2005 debut is being reissued by Starbucks: Her gentle, warm voice carries a simple sophistication enhanced by her subtle samba-influenced music.

CéU is more than just background music for sipping lattes, though, as she layers numerous sonic textures to create a rich blend of genres. The faint scratching of a turntable on "Lenda" complements her leisurely coo, and the repeating groove of synthesizer beats on "Veu Da Noite" evokes Portishead's mellow trip-hop. "Malemolencia" explores a soulful reggae sound, while her bluesy voice on "Valsa Pra Biu Roque" outshines the song's pronounced bandolim melody.

CéU sings in striking, expressive Portuguese except for one song, a cover of Bob Marley's "Concrete Jungle." Her tenderly swaying voice gives the track a casual breeziness, but with her breathy English, the song's underlying anguish seems to be lost in translation.

-- Catherine P. Lewis

.: Originally published: The Washington Post: 6 April 2007, Page WE06
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