It’s been more than a month since my last concert, and since I arrived in Lisbon after a disastrous train ride I was in the mood to listen to music that would wake me up a bit. Thanks to the wonderful concert-tracking app Songkick I found a local artist named Hello Atlantic–his real name is João–performing in a suburban shopping mall, of all places. I contacted him ahead of time to let him know I would be there, so we actually met a bit before the gig and had a chance to talk afterwards as well.
After spending six months dealing with people in their native languages or else poorly-accented English, it’s funny speaking to Portuguese–João was joined by his girlfriend and another friend of his who doubles as a roadie–who are fluent just from growing up on a steady diet of American cartoon shows on TV. This is one reason that all the songs on Hello Atlantic’s album are in English; the other one is because many of João’s influences are American, including Bob Dylan and A.A. Bondy.
As for the music itself, it takes you places both near and far. João spent almost a year in Finland working odd jobs and in his spare time writing the album. Although he loved Scandinavia and has friends up there, being surrounded by thick forests was a distinct change from his home outside of Lisbon, where he could walk to the beach in a minute. In his own words, “Coming back to Portugal, seeing Carcavelos [the beach near his home] and the horizon spreading out as far as I could see” became a motif that ran through his songs and the process of writing them.
“Travel Light” and “Rambling Coast” especially carry the strong salty breeze of the Atlantic, their chords mimicking the narrow roads hugging the shoreline and the lazy rolling waves whose crests peel off from the wind. It is the kind of music that warms the soul on a cold night with promises of summer, the sort of lyrics that paint a picture of life as fleeting and meant to be seized. In short, Hello Atlantic offer the listener music meant for going places, and I can think of no better accompaniment as I trek slowly up Portugal’s rambling coast.
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