In recent years it seems as though there've been two Gal Costas. Back in the 60s, she was the popular face of Brazil's Tropicalia movement, bringing the songs of her compatriots Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil to life with a sure-handed grasp of samba and bossa nova, infused with psychedelic experimentation. As with all of Tropicalia's figures she eventually became a bona fide star, and when she tours around the world she tends to play music that celebrates Brazil's (and her own) rich musical past, often favoring an old-fashioned sound that eschews rock-influenced hybrids. But in recent years she's also been making new studio albums that are more progressive in sound and design. Her remarkable 2012 album Recanto was produced by Moreno Veloso—Caetano's son—and occasionally embraced an electronic starkness as adventurous and bold as anything she made during the height of Tropicalia.
Now she's back with Estratosférica (Sony), which finds her collaborating again with Moreno and his longtime partner in the +2s, Alexandre Kassin. They attack a slew of recent songs by some of her homeland's strongest young talent, folks like Junio Barreto, Céu, Marcelo Camelo, Thalma de Freitas, Mallu Magalhães, and Alberto Continentino, as well as Brazilian musical royalty like Tom Zé, Milton Nascimento and Joao Donato. Many of the songs have a strong indie-rock feel, with a pronounced use of vintage synthesizers. It seems unlikely that some of these tunes will enter her repertory and some, like Camelo's "Espelho D'Agua," don't quite transfer from the creator's voice to Costa's. But she makes a convincing case throughout, and, more importantly, her willingness to keep trying new things is inspirational (and all too rare for a singer of her age and stature). For today's 12 O'Clock Track you can check out Continentino's hooky "Casca," which has overtones of Kraftwerk's "The Model" during its initial section before opening up into a melodically sophisticated trip balancing psychedelic sitar-like twang and futuristic synth patterns.