Recording information: 2nd Floor Studios, CA; Est£dios Valentim De Carvalho Studios, Lisbon; Gigantic Studios, Brooklyn, NY; Henson; Instrument Zoo; Orange Lounge, Toronto; The Boombox; The Green Building, Santa Monica, CA.
Creator: Ianthe Zevos.
Photographer: Mary Rozzi.
It takes a moment to realize just how long it took for Nelly Furtado to deliver a full-fledged follow-up to her blockbuster 2006 makeover Loose. That Timbaland-assisted shift toward the club arrived six years after her 2000 debut, and that's precisely the gap of time between Loose and its 2012 follow-up The Spirit Indestructible. Furtado wasn't exactly quiet during those six years -- halfway through she released the excellent Mi Plan with the Latin market in mind -- but it certainly can't be said that she capitalized on the smash success of "Promiscuous" and "Man Eater," so it shouldn't exactly come as a surprise that The Spirit Indestructible doesn't precisely play as pop, even if it has plenty of heavy, window-rattling beats and bass. After the big breakthrough of Loose, she's reluctant to leave the club behind -- she works heavily with Rodney "Darkchild" Jerkins, brings Nas in for a cameo, and tries desperately to write a slamming single in "Big Hoops (Bigger the Better)," but she comes up far short, stumbling over its heavy-footed hook. Whenever Furtado takes a bold stab at re-creating the slinky success of "Promiscuous" she stumbles, veering toward the eerily melancholic, never quite delivering the hedonistic abandon she teases. Elsewhere, this meditative instinct serves The Spirit Indestructible quite well, creating a curiously shimmering electronic folk-rock that floats tenuously between its two extremes, a tension that invigorates such tracks as the closing "Believers (Arab Spring)." Clearly, The Spirit Indestructible is intended as a hybrid of the introspection and restless adventure of Folklore and the savvy stylist of Loose, an ambitious and difficult prospect to be sure, so it's not entirely a surprise that Furtado isn't entirely successful; at times, the album is more impressive for what she intends to achieve than what she accomplishes. And yet for all its contradictions and clumsiness, it's hard not to admire The Spirit Indestructible, for it is that rare thing: a major-label album that bears the unmistakably messy, human stamp of an artist. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine