Up for hearing distinctive acoustic renditions of recent songs from Lorde, Skrillex and Mumford & Sons? This is what you're in for here — and the execution sounds better than the concept. Brazilian nylon-string guitarist Badi Assad (pronounced bah-gee ah-sah-j) is regarded for her musical fearlessness and experimentation, and her third project, Hatched, continues in this fashion, with nine tracks that cover recent American pop songs. The results are diverse and satisfying.
Assad more or less remains faithful to original song structures and melodies, but enlivens the material with unique instrumentation — including accordion, upright bass and percussion — with capable vocal stylings. Her take on "Hanging Tree" (from the Hunger Games motion picture soundtrack) comes off soothing and smooth, and the pop cover of Lorde's "Royals" is vibrantly recontextualized by Assad's Afro-Brazilian accent. The cover of Hozier's "Sedated" features a calm blend of drums, guitar and vocals, and her version of Mumford & Sons' "Little Lion Man" offers up a slowed-down tempo and a sensual beat. Standouts include the gentle acoustic flair of original composition "Spirit Dog" and the accordion-driven take on Skrillex's "Stranger."
In lesser hands, these pop covers could have been cornball; the classically trained Assad delivers each track on Hatched sincerely, and manages to craft a pleasing project in the process. (Quatro Ventos)