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Review Tulipa Ruiz – Tudo Tanto

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Listening to Tulipa Ruiz’s sophmore album Tudo Tanto is akin to being a kid in an auditory candy store. Building on her acclaimed debut Efêmera (2010), the Paulista songwriter tickles the ear at every turn with her playful, organic blend of Brazilian indie pop. Here, and perhaps more so than on her first record, Ruiz embraces the idiosyncracies of every acoustic and electronic instrument in her palette, adding depth and clarity to her compositions rather than obscuring them.

Like most successful MPB artists since the 1960s, Ruiz expands on the stylistic impulses of the Tropicalia movement, honoring her country’s musical heritage but always with an open ear to the world. There are subtle touches of samba and choro here, sure, but the music on Tudo Tanto never feels out of touch with current trends. This is perhaps most evident in the album’s blissful production, which blends synthesized and acoustic sounds to create consistently engaging sonic textures. “Expectativa” could almost pass for a track off of MGMT’s Oracular Spectacular.

For Ruiz, her music is nothing revolutionary, just simply an expression of the here and now. “Brazilian music is a mix of the music of the world. Right now there are a lot of artists making great music and this huge offering makes people want to give it a name. But really its not new music but music that is going down in Brazil right now,” she said in an interview for the blog Maziart.

Her constant melding of styles and influences never feels forced because it’s all grounded in Ruiz’s solid – and at times brilliant – compositions. Rarely does Tudo Tanto suffer from style over substance, and it’s clear that melody and cohesion are the top priorities here. The opening track “E” (“it is” in Portugese), for example, takes the listener on a joyous and unexpected harmonic ride that sets the inventive tone for what’s to come.

The artist’s vocal versatility also holds the album firmly in place, dispite its multiple personas. On “Vibora” Ruiz displays her gut-wrenching blues chops, the kind that would make Aretha Franklin bow her head. The shuffling dirty guitar rocker “Like This” finds the singer exploring her indie post-punk side, sounding something like Kim Deal’s Brazilian cousin. Regardless of the context, Tulipa Ruiz consistently demonstrates remarkable confidence and poise.

Ruiz has cited Canadian songestress Jonie Mitchell as one of her main influences, and on Tudo Tanto that connection is fully apparent. On “OK” Ruiz bounces between registers with unfettered ease, yet she never loses that relaxed, personal feel reminiscent of Joni’s “Big Yellow Taxi.” There’s certainly a lot of Gal Costa here as well, another important influence on Ruiz’s quirky, at times psychedelic, sound. Tom Zé, who David Byrne “rediscovered” in the 1990s but is well known in Brazilian musicians’ circles, can also be heard, particularly on the track “Bom.”

This is an artist who loves to create and understands the limitless possibilities of music. As a result, there are few dull moments on Tudo Tanto, and it’s an album that rewards multiple listens. It’s clear we can expect lots of exciting music from this unique voice, and it will be interesting to see where she takes things. I personally would like to hear a collaboration between Tulipa Ruiz and Beck, a guy who’s always expressed an affinitiy for more adventurous Brazilian music.

Tudo Tanto can be downloaded for free from tuliparuiz.com

Here is Tulipa performing the album’s title track “Tudo Tanto”:

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