Sessa ‘Estrela Acesa’ LP/CD (Mexican Summer) 5/5

In Estrela Acesa, São Paulo’s Sessa offers a worthy follow up to his 2019 debut Grandeza. While Grandeza may have been a little more hopeful and starry-eyed, Estrela Acesa (which translates to Burning Star) brings us back down to reality. Exploring the messiness of life and especially love, Estrela Acesa is more grounded and thoughtful, thanks in large part to the tender way Sessa approaches his craft. The songs are simultaneously minimalistic and expansive, mirroring the duality he set out to highlight. Estrela Acesa is meant to be a bridge; sounds that connect the earthy and the astral, the painful and the hopeful, the divine and the mundane. The often sunny Brazilian beach evoking rhythms belie the impending doom of some of his lyrics; something akin to escaping a global pandemic on a private island-the reality doesn’t change just because your view is also beautiful.

But we can’t heal what we don’t talk about, and Estrela Acesa is hoping to do just that, to air it all out so that we can heal. “Gostar do Mundo”, a beautiful soft samba makes you want to slow dance and kiss and smile, and yet the lyrics are about love at the end of the world. The dichotomy encourages us to make the most out of what we have left. Sessa’s voice is soft and cooling, like the sheet you cover yourself with on a hot summer’s night; light and airy while still protecting you from the elements. The choral components of the song, provided by the voices of Ciça Góes, Ina, Paloma Mecozzi, and Lau Ra add depth without adding heaviness.

Estrela Acesa also reminds us to play. “Pele de Esfera” or “Skin of the Sphere” is sort of nonsensical. During a stint supporting Shintaro Sakamoto, who sings in Japanese, paired with Sessa’s own Portuguese lyrics played in front of audiences who mostly spoke English, the tangling of languages inspired a song tied more to feelings and imagery than words and linear meaning. It’s playful and joyful, and if you listen closely you can hear the musicians laughing in the background. Estrela Acesa is full of these moments, from the delightful orchestration of “Irmão de Nuvem” to the whimsy of the flute in “Ponta da Faca”. These songs are spritely and curious, inviting you to partake in the joy and the sorrow.

The album in general has such depth and texture, and each time you listen you can have a completely different experience. Do you want a night of moving your body, or one of candlelit reading in the bathtub? You can have both with Estrela Acesa. Each song adds a layer to the musical story by centering a different instrument emphasizing the sheer talent in the room and the language they have created together. The violins in “Sereia Sentimental”, the percussion in “Música”, all compliment Sessa’s soft voice, but it’s not overbearing. The album is never overbearing, it just sort of wraps around you like a cloud. It’s safe and soft and yet pushes you to go deeper into the experience of the moment.

Even when presented with the often crushing heaviness of reality Estrela Acesa leaves behind the lesson that hope remains at the end of it, that even if we have nothing, we have something because we are still here, there is softness within that heaviness and while it may take effort, if we look we will find it.

Molly Gallegos