Over the course of two previous studio albums and countless all-nighters at their East Village clubhouse, Nublu, Brazilian Girls have established a reputation as New York’s premier international party band. To attend a Brazilian Girls show—with its blur of beats, colors and textures—is to experience something like time travel: No one else is quite as capable of making a few hours fly by like a few minutes.
For the Girls’ third full-length—the follow-up to 2006’s Talk to La Bomb, which SPIN called “multicultural, cosmopolitan, intellectual dance music: Ibiza meets punk, dub goes tango, trance gets smart.”—singer Sabina Sciubba says she, keyboardist Didi Gutman and drummer Aaron Johnston (bassist Jesse Murphy is on hiatus from the group) wanted to slow down their process. “The pace of recording on our last album was really frenetic,” Sciubba explains. “And we never wanna do the same thing twice. So for this one we decided to really take our time with the writing and recording. We all calmed down a little bit, and we didn’t rush anything.”
The result of nearly eight months’ worth of work on their own and with producer Hector Castillo, the boldly titled New York City is Brazilian Girls’ most sophisticated, dynamic effort yet. To be sure, the album contains its fair share (more, really) of uptempo party-starters: “We just want to have a good time all the time,” Sciubba admits gleefully over an infectious hand-clap beat in the aptly named “Good Time,” while “Losing Myself” rides a go-go organ groove.
Yet New York City also reveals a deeper, more contemplative side of Brazilian Girls’ sound, one that Johnston says reflects the band’s desire to “actually sit down and write rather than just jam at the club.” Sciubba cites influences like Caetano Veloso and Feist. “I think we were feeling like we wanted to push ourselves in other directions,” adds Gutman. “We were interested in exploring a wider range of emotions.”
They certainly succeed on that count. “Strangeboy” is a spooky avant-cabaret number in which Sciubba’s echo-chamber vocals float uneasily over forbidding haunted-house horns. “Ricardo” has a sly spy-movie throb. “I Want Out” features gorgeous choral vocals that call to mind Björk’s work on Vespertine. “Mano De Dios” could be the soundtrack to your next yoga session. For “Internacional,” a sleek future-lounge throwdown, Brazilian Girls were joined in the studio by Senegalese superstar Baba Maal, a happy byproduct of Sciubba and Gutman’s work on Maal’s own forthcoming album.
New York City’s title was inspired by the heavy touring Brazilian Girls did in support of Talk to La Bomb; Scuibba says that after seeing the world and spending time in exotic locales like St. Petersburg and Berlin (both of which have songs named after them here) she discovered that the band’s hometown contains pieces of everywhere else. “You can find a bit of every city in New York City,” she says. Adds Johnston, “This record is about us starting to realize our roots and where all this stuff is coming from.”
The members of the band are sure that the wide variety of fans who make up Brazilian Girls’ diverse audience will respond to their latest explorations. “Rather than something cool or hip, I think people are looking for something that touches them,” says Sciubba. “Everyone needs a little love right now.”