Going into your famous dad’s business is complicated enough, but in his debut release, Music Typewriter (Hannibal), 27-year-old Brazilian singer and songwriter Moreno Veloso — who opens for Virginia Rodrigues at the Somerville Theatre this Sunday — seems to invite comparisons, then shrug them off, even mock them. Like other second-generation Brazilian pop stars-to-be (singer Bebel Gilberto comes to mind), Moreno, son of the legendary singer/songwriter Caetano Veloso, sounds almost ambivalent about the legacies of bossa nova and MPB (the acronym for Brazilian Popular Music).
Besides, he has grown up in a globalized culture that puts a peculiar spin on the cultural policies of the tropicália movement championed by his father in the 1960s. After all, tropicália proposed a sort of cultural anthropophagy in which international pop and rock influences would be Brazilianized. Like so many other Latin American artists, Moreno feels free to pick and choose from whatever global culture makes available. It’s the filter of his Brazilianness (if you will) that makes his music Brazilian — and if it doesn’t, so be it.
The simplicity and starkness of the opening “Sertão” (“Outback”), which Caetano wrote with him, seems to aim at nothing less than evoking the feel of the open spaces of the Brazilian outback. There is a voice and a guitar, plain, unsentimental, played at a slow, even pace. Only later do some details emerge — a piano, a bass, cellos. The effect is one of rich desolation. But “Deusa do Amor” (“Goddess of Love”) suggests a deconstructed bossa nova, the rhythmic pulse offering a sort of shorthand of the subtle, intricate rhythmic figures of the old days. To reframe the mood further, the arrangement includes toy pianos and noise (credits include “iron shovel” and “sandpaper”). The other bossa, “Para Xó” (“For Xó”), features João Donato on electric piano for a distinct loungy sound.
Aside from a few guests, Moreno (who is a doctoral candidate in physics) performs on Music Typewriter as part of a trio (“+ 2”), with his friends Kassin on bass and Domenico on drums and percussion. He wrote and arranged most of the material here and then produced it with Andrés Levin, who produces, among others, the Venezuelan rock-en-español avant-lounge group Los Amigos Invisibles. An apt guitarist, Moreno doesn’t have a particularly rich or powerful voice, and his modest range thins out and becomes brittle in the upper register. But he’s an expressive singer who has grasped his father’s style. At times he suggests the deceptive plainness (ordering on artlessness) favored by bossa nova singers, hinting at strength in his vulnerability, offering a cool, measured intimacy, as on “Deusa do Amor,” “Só vendo que beleza” (“You’ve Got To See How Pretty It Is”), and “Para Xó.” On “Eu sou melhor que você” (“I’m Better Than You”), his reading of a lyric will seem casual; then he’ll sing, “Every man has a deep voice and a big dick and it’s bigger/Than mine, than yours, than everybody else’s/Everybody is the standard and compares himself/Only to prove he’s better//I’m better than you/But please stay with me because/I don’t have anyone else.”
Levin’s influence is perhaps most obvious in “Arrivederci,” another peculiar love song (“I don’t like you that much/But every time you leave me/I confess I can’t forget you, girl”) with a simple, catchy funk groove. In “O livro & o beijo” (“The Book and the Kiss”), Moreno seems to nod toward the æsthetics of Veloso père in his ’80s album Estrangeiro (Elektra) with a sort of New York downtown Brazilian sound — a spiky æsthetic featuring guitar and electronic noises framing the edges of the song.
Now that Moreno Veloso has demonstrated that he knows he’s his father’s son — and that he knows we know — it will be worth following him as he develops his own voice.
Moreno Veloso +2 open for Virginia Rodrigues at the Somerville Theatre this Sunday, April 1, at 7:30 p.m. Call 617-876-4275.