For reasons not yet explained, Jacksonville has attracted a coterie of indie duos who are making their mark on that music scene locally as well as nationally. These are collaborations not only of music, but also of the heart. Flagship Romance, whose raison d’être is declared in its name, This Frontier Needs Heroes, Willow-Wacks, and Complicated Animals are groups whose partnerships are supported by the pillow as well as the pen.
At the vanguard of that movement are Mônica da Silva and Chad Alger, whose previous CDs are infused with vintage Brazilian Bossa Nova and for good reasons: da Silva, a lovely polyglot of Brazilian descent, possesses a silky reposed voice that seduces in Portuguese as well as English. Complemented by Alger’s effortless jazz guitar arrangements, their songs have gained a national following. Listening to them easily reminds one of the Brazilian husband/wife collaboration of João and Astrud Gilberto.
On their recently released six-song CD, In This Game, (Socialite Fiasco Music) the first produced under the new moniker, Complicated Animals, da Silva and Alger veer decidedly into the indie lane, integrating Brazilian Bossa Nova with a breezy pop to create their self-proclaimed style, Indie Nova. Whether or not it is truly seminal, it is at the forefront of a new genre.
The CD boldly introduces this new style with the opening song “Phoenix.” Driven by a repetitive Latin beat, da Silva’s sensuous voice loops in a near disco style, overlaid by ascending and descending harmonies. Alger punctuates with a repetitive synthesized chord progression.
“Drive Around in Cars” plows headlong into the traditional Indie vein complete with 1–4 open guitar chords and da Silva’s breezy, ethereal voice matching the airy message of the song.
For those followers of the singer who prefer her intimate Portuguese incantations, In This Game offers two songs, “O Qye Passou” and “Sempre Aqui,” with the latter coming most closely to Astrud Gilbertos’ relaxed, seductive style.
“The CD was inspired by changing seasons and our love of vintage films and music,” says da Silva. “We really wanted the songs to unfold like a story would.”
Da Silva and Alger released their first album together, Brasilissima, under Mônica’s name in 2011. The album featured songs in both English and Portuguese, and was produced by Alger and Bruce Driscoll (Blondfire, Avicii, Freedom Fry). “That’s Not The Way,” a track from the CD, was chosen by ESPN to be played during the programming of the 2014 World Cup, introducing them to an international audience.
For now, the Complicated Animals duo are content to cultivate their Indie Nova brand of music in Jacksonville, performing for an appreciative and ever-growing following.
By Mike Bernos