Every week, we tell you about an album we think you need to spend time with. This week’s album is Sombrou Dúvida, the third album from Brazilian psych rock outfit Boogarins.
Despite being painted as the province of Grateful Dead and Pink Floyd and other British bands that couldn’t live up to them, psych rock was always a much more international endeavor than it was painted in the ’60s and ’70s. While the Western psych rock monoliths were barnstorming around America, there was Haruomi Hosono in Japan, making a wild mix of Brill Building pop, soundtracks for movies that didn’t exist, and acid freakouts. There were also psych rock scenes in India, Malaysia and Singapore (where it was called “pop yeh yeh”), Brazil (where it was mostly morphed into tropicália) and points all over the world. Psych-rock was every bit as much of a global phenomenon as any other rock ’n’ roll form.
Which is to say that it shouldn’t surprise anyone that the best psych rock today is coming from Japan (where Guruguru Brain has established itself as one of the best rock labels out), and Brazil, where Goiânia’s Boogarins have pumped out albums that feel like a tie-dye T-shirt rendering of the best of ’60s and ’70s psych, as filtered through tropicália. Their third LP, Sombrou Dúvida, is named after a contraction of “shadow or doubt,” but you don’t need to know that before listening to the record; these songs feel like they’re clouded in some unnamed dread, a downcast mellow that is swept up in Boogarins’ whirlwind of styles.
Where past Boogarins albums could be sprawling and loose-limbed, Sombrou Dúvida is more tightly wound, more muscular and sure of itself. The quasi-title track “Sombra a Dúvida” is a crunchy, knotty song that features interlocking guitar riffs that feel like they could crack concrete. Singer Fernando Almeida offsets the darkness with his sticky sweet vocals, soaring above the maelstrom. “A Tradição” is a beefier update of Hail to the Thief-era Radiohead, while “Dislexia,” with its acoustic strums, is rattling shoegaze if it was played by Renaissance Faire band. The heaviness of the album climaxes with the closing track, the more subdued “Passeio,” which feels like sunlight through a storm, a meditative reprieve during a tough time.
The album’s main strength is how it feels like the songs open up like the jasmine flower the band is named after. This is music that you can get lost in, and find new favorite pockets in. It’s an incredible headphones record; the type that makes emailing and looking at memes feel rife with deeper existential meaning. Sombrou Dúvida is as expansive as a comic-book world, and pushes psych rock into new, brave directions. Boogarins took the torch from Os Mutantes, added some power, and are on their own path now.
Andrew Winistorfer is Senior Director of Music and Editorial at Vinyl Me, Please, and a writer and editor of their books, 100 Albums You Need in Your Collection and The Best Record Stores in the United States. He’s written Listening Notes for more than 30 VMP releases, co-produced multiple VMP Anthologies, and executive produced the VMP Anthologies The Story of Vanguard, The Story of Willie Nelson, Miles Davis: The Electric Years and The Story of Waylon Jennings. He lives in Saint Paul, Minnesota.