I recently wrote about Late Nite Laundry’s eponymous EP. And as I continued to play and enjoy it after filing the review, I was prompted to check out the solo debut by the band’s guitarist and vocalist, Ari Lindo. It dropped a few months ago, but for a talent like this, better late than never.
Lindo is a third-generation immigrant with South American roots, which you could’ve inferred from the bossa nova influences in Late Nite Laundry’s new sound. Those influences are in greater evidence on “Cost of Giving,” right from the liquid guitar chords leading into the first track, “Chances.” The lyrics, too, reflect bossa’s breezy take on yearning and regret: “We’re drawn into / A world we know / To be alone / As distance unfolds.”
In the following cut, “Traces,” Lindo sings, “Anxious eyes have delayed / But now they’re watching you leave / You’re better off now, I think.” I’ve always thought of bossa as a literary song form, and that in that line, it’s that final “I think” that adds just the soupçon of ambiguity required to meet that high bar. “Traces” is a great track musically, too, melodic and sprightly; but Lindo phrases certain lines so that there’s a telling pause—a slight breath before making a difficult admission. “The only way to… heal / To go it on your… own.” That’s some really sophisticated writing and singing.
Which brings us to Lindo’s voice. It’s a small one—or at least, he uses it that way here—but that’s a hallmark of bossa nova singers; they’re often right on the mic, murmuring intimately. Lindo’s engineer, Max Subar, has beefed up the vocals on the sound board, but not intrusively so; and I really do like the way Lindo is able to dip from this kind of into-your-ear singing to a bit of conversational gravel. In the phrase, “Don’t forget the lesson learned / When it comes for your neck / And you take a step back,” he gives the word “your” a bit of a growl, and it’s a lovely little expressive moment.
As the album plays out, its emotional edge softens and the songs become increasingly hopeful. In the languid charmer, “Sunlight,” Lindo sings to soothe a lover’s jangled nerves.
Comes in cycles and that’s okay
You’ve been doing your best today
When the light leaves you down and out
Know the sun will come around
Loves a game of lost and found
The tune then ends by changing rhythm, and a sprightly instrumental carries us for a few bars until it simply… peters out. Read that how you will; I see it as another deliberate play for ambiguity.
There are other influences at work on the album besides bossa, of course. My favorite tune, the album closer, “Safety,” is a gorgeous dream-pop lullaby in waltz time. (“Just laugh, kindly relax / You are safe to rest your head / Tremors of memories escape you / While you’re asleep in bed”) It’s even got a little vocal riff that adorably launches off the end of selected lines (“You’ve given up so much / (ba-dada-dada) / You haven’t lost that touch / (ba-dada-dada-dada-dada”). At the end, the tune switches from a gently swaying 6/8 to an urgent 8/4 (“You’ll be safe tonight / I’ll be here the whole time / Darlin please don’t… cry”), and that final syllable nestles into an absolutely ravishing D major 7, with the guitar playing only the chord’s base note—all the other notes are sung. If you don’t openly swoon, I’ll do you the favor of assuming you’re severely overcaffeinated. Certainly Lindo is aware of the sublime moment he’s just pulled off; the track ends with a little off-mic guitar flourish, which I’m assuming is his way of saying, Nailed it!
As its title suggests, “Cost of Giving” is an exploration of the price our relationships extract (and sometimes extort) from us; but the cumulative effective of the album’s sweetness and stillness suggests that, ultimately, the cost is worth it.
Robert Rodi is an author, spoken-word performer and musician who has served as Newcity’s Music Editor since 2014. He’s written more than a dozen books, including the travel memoir “Seven Seasons In Siena,” and his literary and music criticism has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune, Salon, The Huffington Post and many other national and regional publications.