Things are a little insane right now to say the least. Even though I’m still going into work every day (which I am so grateful for being that majority of my friends are out of the job– my heart breaks for everyone who is going through this without a paycheck) but that doesn’t mean things feel normal. The lack of live concerts is really taking a toll on my mental health right now if I’m being completely transparent. I’ve tried live streams of performances online and that seems to help a little bit but it’s still not the same. I crave the feeling of my hair bouncing ever so slightly to the sound of a bassdrum and I miss the occassional conversation with a stranger about the one thing that really brings us all together- music. I need to get out of this funk and what better way than to dig into my box of albums to review that I’ve clearly been neglecting for weeks, and get to work on them. First up- ‘Brazil’ by Chris Castino.
The album kicks off with “Chinese Whispers” and within the first beat I knew this was the album I needed to hear right now. Laidback yet somehow upbeat at the same time, the vibe in my house instantly went from frantic panic attack to a chill Saturday morning completely with a giant cup of coffee and my cats sunbathing in the living room. There was something familiar about the voice and vibe of this album and within the first couple of seconds of not being able to peg it, I looked it up. Chris is a member of Big Wu and that’s when it all made sense. This album has the same vibe that I described when I reviewed a Big Wu album only it seemed a bit more pin pointed. I was still only on the first song when I found my mind going elsewhere. I was no longer stuck in my house without human interaction or live music, I was in a giant field surrounded by strangers, watching a live performance take place on a giant stage in front of me while I sipped on a cold beer. I listened to “Chinese Whispers” no less than four times before moving on to “Fire & Stars”.
“Fire & Stars” keeps with the chill vibe laid out by “Chinese Whispers” but brings this new almost doo-wop feeling to the song. It just feels like an older and more weathered song in the best way possible. It is impossible to not get goosebumps when Jill Mikelson’s (who helps out on many of the songs on this ten song album) joins Chris’. The perfect blend is hauntingly beautiful. That beautiful transitions perfectly into the coziness that comes with “Duluth”. I went to Duluth for the first time last summer and honestly this song fits that city so well. Cool, calm, collected, patient and beautiful. The song matches the city perfectly and I instantly found myself reliving my time spent in that beautiful city as this song played through my speakers.
The album continues with “Leore” which takes the calming vibe of “Duluth” and seems to expand on it. This track came off as more of your classic singer-songwriter type song but the passion in Chris’ voice and the delcacy he approaches each word with keeps this song from falling into the generic slow song category. It really showcases his vocal talent and his way with words. This is another one of those songs where it’s impossible to not get goosebumps as Jill’s voice merges with Chris’. The swells in this song are unreal and a true standout element of this track.
The acoustic guitar that kicks off “Someway [For Penelope]” is a little startling after the almost quiet nature of “Leore” but it works perfectly and instantly draws you into this song. Like the other tracks on this album, it’s all about the lyrics and the way they are delievered by Chris. He shows a sense of restraint with his words but also has a clear amount of genius with the way he strings them along. The vibe changes almost completely for “Reckless” which seems to focus on the country side of Chris. Even with the spotlight shining on a more classic ountry sound, this track is still undoubtedly Chris Castino’s.
If I only had one word to describe the title track “Brazil” it would be heartbreak. There’s a pain in Chris’ voice throughout this song that refuses to be ignored but, with that sense of pain, is a true spark of beauty that keeps the song from going too dark. Much like in “Leore”, the swells of volume and energy in “Brazil” are perfectly placed and crafted. It’s not the type of song where you know what is coming and that’s the magic of this title track.
Things pick-up instantly as the album moves to “Ms. Missme” which instantly became a favorite of mine from this album. One of the more upbeat tracks on this album, I love the feeling that listening to this song gave me. It had me moving a little bit in my chair to the point that one of the cats was staring at me like I was crazy. The beat in this song is infectious to the point where standing or sitting still is just not an option. The infectious vibe continues as the album moves onto “Beginner’s Mind”. This track brings a brighter feeling to Chris’ voice that sounds unlike anything else on the album. Greg “Cheech” Hall’s slide guitar fits perfectly in this song and stands out at all of the right spots while not taking away from any of the other brilliant musicians on the track.
‘Brazil’ is a true work of art and closes with “Don’t Break My Heart”. Easily the funkiest track on this album, “Don’t Break My Heart” is one of those closing songs that makes it impossible to not just hit replay on the album when it’s done. The song has a very triumphant vibe and a larger than life sound that easily filled up my entire house. An exclamation point on an already genius album, I can not give this song, this album, all of the musicians who played a part on this release, and Chris enough credit.
The world is a weird place right now but I feel like we can all take a lesson from it and really just slow down and appreciate what we all have (even though for some people, it may feel like you have nothing right now). Slow down, sip on a cup of coffee and let Chris Castino’s music help you drift away to a dream land.
My Favorite Track(s): “Duluth”; “Ms. Missme”
Chances Of Getting A Noise Complaint While Listening To In An Apartment: 4.3 out of 10
For Fans Of: Calmness; sipping on coffee; zen
Daydream-ability: 9.8 out of 10
What My Cats Thought Of It: Artie laid on the back of the couch moving his tail to the beat; Autumn slept on my bed upstairs
My Overall Rating: 4.3 out of 5
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