Get our free newsletter
Let us stipulate up front that Saudade, the newest full-length by the D.C. production duo Thievery Corporation, is last-call music—an album to half-listen to after your fourth or fifth Vieux Carre as you weigh whether to hail an Uber or push on ’til daylight. Like every record by Eric Hilton and Rob Garza, it’s an exercise in mood that’s precision-built to transport you to a place you’ve been, or read about, or most likely seen in a movie. On Saudade—a term that describes a particularly lusophonic state of nostalgia for a world or place that no longer exists and possibly never did—Thievery Corporation blends Brazilian bossa nova, French chanson, and various other international shades of lounge-appropriate cocktail music. You’ve been here before, or at least you think you have—kind of like some of the bars and restaurants co-owned by Hilton, his brother Ian, and other partners, each an exotic yet instantly familiar pocket universe of pure vibe.
So why review this thing when you can experience it through the haze of a drained highball? It doesn’t matter how Saudade sounds at home; far more telling is how it might play at various times inside Eric Hilton’s nightlife empire.
1. “Décollage” 12 a.m., Hanoi House, formerly at 2005 14th St. NW If the girl from Ipanema were from Marseille, she’d grab the mic for a breathy rendition of this belle bossa. And if Hanoi House were still hosting Saturday night karaoke, she could get a confidence boost by downing a few watery scorpion bowls first.
2. “Meu Nego” 8:30 p.m., The Brixton, 901 U St. NW The shuffling percussion and vaguely hypnotic horns will lead you to the second floor of the Brixton early in the night, where you’ll feel tempted to dance but question whether it’s really a good idea.
3. “Quem Me Leva” 8 p.m., The Dickson, 903 U St. NW Shimmy along to this thin-as-air, Bebel Gilberto-esque ditty while sipping a nonconfrontational yet bubbly white at The Dickson, the understated wine bar co-owned by Hilton’s wife Tien Claudio.
4. “Firelight” 5 p.m., Satellite Room 2047 9th St. NW A frothy, trip-pop number with a ’60s sheen: like the milkshakes and the pop-art vibe, respectively, at Satellite Room.
5. “Sola In Citta” 3 a.m., Eighteenth Street Lounge, 1212 18th St. NW Sexy, intense bossa nova with an eye toward the stars—music for the witching hour, when ESL gets weird.
6. “No More Disguise” 9 p.m., The Gibson, 2009 14th St. NW Speakeasyish cocktail bar The Gibson pairs ideally with “No More Disguise,” a sensuous, lushly orchestrated come-on that wouldn’t feel out of place as the theme of a lesser James Bond movie.
7. “Saudade” 9:30 p.m., Den of Thieves, 2005 14th St. NW A smoky, Spanish guitar instrumental for a brief, tantalizing encounter in the Hiltons’ ominously decorated “dive” concept.
8. “Claridad” 11 p.m., U Street Music Hall, 1115 U St. NW Not this, but maybe a moombahsoul remix.
9. “Nos Dois” 6:30 p.m., American Ice Company, 917 V St. NW Another downtempo mood setter, with flickers of astral bliss. For calming your anxiety as you wait in the serpentine bathroom line.
10. “Le Coeur” 7 p.m., Chez Billy, 3815 Georgia Ave. NW A breathy, low-key chanson number sure to evoke, too perfectly, the Paris of Fitzgerald and Hemingway—ça, c’est Chez Billy.
11. “Para Sempre” 10 p.m., Marvin, 2007 14th St. NW Finally your night, and this album, is picking up its tempo. Head to the second floor of Marvin. Tip the DJ.
12. “Bateau Rouge” 5 p.m., El Rey, 919 U St. NW This track promises a flirty afternoon “sous le soleil des tropiques.” The closest you’ll come to feeling the tropical sun in D.C. is in the back of El Rey, a fittingly multiculti Mexican beer garden.
13. “Depth of My Soul” 6 p.m., Patty Boom Boom, 1359 U St. NW This song sounds a lot like “Feeling Good.” The Jamaican spicy beef patties at Patty Boom Boom will definitely make you feel good.