Bossanova (Pixies album)

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Studio album by
ReleasedAugust 13, 1990
StudioCherokee Studios, Hollywood
Aire L.A. Studios, Glendale
Silverlake Studios, Hollywood
Hansa Tonstudio, Berlin
Master Control, Burbank
ProducerGil Norton
Pixies chronology
Trompe le Monde
Singles from Bossanova
  1. "Velouria"
    Released: July 16, 1990
  2. "Dig for Fire"
    Released: October 29, 1990

Bossanova is the third studio album by American rock band Pixies. It was released on August 13, 1990 on the English independent record label 4AD in the United Kingdom and by Elektra Records in the United States. The album's sound, inspired by surf rock and space rock, complements its lyrical focus on outer space, which references subjects such as aliens and unidentified flying objects.

Because of 4AD's independent status, major label Elektra Records handled distribution in the United States; Bossanova reached number 70 on the Billboard 200. The album peaked at number three in the UK Albums Chart. Two singles were released from Bossanova, "Velouria" and "Dig for Fire"; both charted on the US Modern Rock Tracks chart, at #4 and #11, respectively.

Background and recording[edit]

After Pixies finished touring obligations for their second album Doolittle (1989) in January 1990, band members Black Francis, Joey Santiago, and David Lovering moved from Boston to Los Angeles. Bassist Kim Deal meanwhile stayed in the UK to record the first Breeders album during January with producer Steve Albini. Deal ultimately decided to travel out to Los Angeles with the rest of the group.[1] Lovering stated that he, Santiago, and Black Francis moved to Los Angeles because that's where they intended to record. The three band members lived in the Oakwood apartments, along with comic Garrett Morris and members of the band White Lion. Producer Gil Norton also moved into the apartment complex.[2]

Pixies started recording material for Bossanova at Cherokee Studios in February 1990,[3] where the sessions ran into problems. Norton said that nothing could be recorded after six P.M. because the recording desk would pick up pirate radio stations. Norton decided to work at overdubs somewhere else for a few days until the problem was corrected, but when he returned to Cherokee, he found that any time something was plugged into a guitar amplifier it would generate "this incredible hum". Norton refused to tell 4AD owner Ivo Watts-Russell about the problem until he felt he could address the problems. One day while visiting a bar, Norton and Santiago met producer Rick Rubin, whom they informed of their situation. Rubin had his secretary find another studio for the group, and the band continued recording at Master Control.[4]

One album song, "Blown Away", had been written in Spain in early June 1989 while on tour.[5] The song was recorded at Hansa Tonstudio after their 19 June 1989 Berlin gig with producer Gil Norton who was specially flown in for the one-song session.[6]

In contrast to previous records, many songs were written in the studio and few demo recordings were created. Santiago said that the band only practiced for a two-week period, in contrast to previous practice in Boston where the group rehearsed constantly.[7] Black Francis noted, "So I was writing [lyrics] on napkins five minutes before I sang. Sometimes it's good, sometimes not. That's just the nature of that songwriting."[8]


The album was released in August 1990 on 4AD in the UK, and jointly by 4AD and Elektra in the USA. After 4AD re-acquired sole distribution rights for Pixies' back catalog, a re-issued CD (although not remastered) appeared solely on 4AD in the US in 2004. Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab released a version in 2008 that was remastered from the original analog master tapes.[9]

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic4.5/5 stars[10]
Blender5/5 stars[11]
Entertainment WeeklyA−[12]
Los Angeles Times3/5 stars[13]
Q4/5 stars[16]
Rolling Stone3/5 stars[17]
The Village VoiceA[19]

The UK reviews of Bossanova were generally positive. Q's Mat Snow, in his September 1990 review of Bossanova, said that "the Pixies are masters of the calculated incongruity," and commented that "they give other rockers an object lesson in the first principles of how it should be done."[16] Terry Staunton of NME noted that the album's production "leans towards the harsh garage grunge of Surfer Rosa, although the songs retain the strong melodies of Doolittle," and said that "Bossanova is the composite Pixies LP."[14]

In comparison to the band's previous albums, Rolling Stone reviewer Moira McCormick described Bossanova as "more of a straight-ahead rock album – by the Pixies' standards, meaning it's still safely off the mainstream."[17]

UK magazine Select made Bossanova their album of the year for 1990.[20] The album was also included in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.[21]

Track listing[edit]

All tracks are written by Black Francis, except where noted.

1."Cecilia Ann"The Surftones[22]2:05
2."Rock Music" 1:52
3."Velouria" 3:40
4."Allison" 1:17
5."Is She Weird" 3:01
6."Ana" 2:09
7."All Over the World" 5:27
8."Dig for Fire" 3:02
9."Down to the Well" 2:29
10."The Happening" 4:19
11."Blown Away" 2:20
12."Hang Wire" 2:01
13."Stormy Weather" 3:26
14."Havalina" 2:33


Chart (1990) Peak
Australia (ARIA Charts)[23] 68
New Zealand (RIANZ) 7
United Kingdom (Official Charts) 3
United States (Billboard 200) 70

Certifications and sales[edit]

Region Certification Certified units/sales
France (SNEP)[24] Gold 100,000*
United Kingdom (BPI)[25] Gold 100,000^
United States (RIAA)[27] none 281,000[26]

* Sales figures based on certification alone.
^ Shipments figures based on certification alone.


Credits adapted from the album's liner notes.[28]


Additional musicians

  • Robert F. Brunner – theremin on "Velouria" and "Is She Weird"



  1. ^ Frank; Ganz, p. 172–73
  2. ^ Frank; Ganz, p. 174
  3. ^ Manfred Upnmoor: The Pixies: Interview mit Black Francis. In: Zillo magazine, Germany, September 1990.
  4. ^ Frank; Ganz, p. 174–75
  5. ^ The Diary of Black Francis. In: Melody Maker, 23 December 1989.
  6. ^ Michael Ruff: Pixies: It's Only New Wave But I Like It! In: Spex magazine, Germany, August 1990.
  7. ^ Frank; Ganz, p. 175
  8. ^ Frank; Ganz, p. 176
  9. ^ [1] Archived December 25, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
  10. ^ Phares, Heather. "Bossanova – Pixies". AllMusic. Retrieved January 25, 2012.
  11. ^ Dolan, Jon (December 2008 – January 2009). "Pixies: Bossanova". Blender. No. 76. p. 86. Archived from the original on August 29, 2010. Retrieved August 29, 2015.
  12. ^ Sandow, Greg (August 17, 1990). "Bossanova". Entertainment Weekly. No. 27. Retrieved January 25, 2012.
  13. ^ Willman, Chris (August 26, 1990). "Pixies 'Bossa Nova' 4AD/Elektra". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved November 14, 2015.
  14. ^ a b Staunton, Terry (August 11, 1990). "Pixies – Bossanova". NME. Archived from the original on October 12, 2000. Retrieved August 29, 2015.
  15. ^ Powell, Mike (April 25, 2014). "Pixies: Catalog". Pitchfork. Retrieved April 25, 2014.
  16. ^ a b Snow, Mat (September 1990). "Pixies: Bossanova". Q. No. 48.
  17. ^ a b McCormick, Moira (September 20, 1990). "Bossanova". Rolling Stone. Retrieved January 25, 2012.
  18. ^ Brown, Russell (September 1990). "More Songs About Weirdness and Girls". Select. No. 3. p. 92.
  19. ^ Christgau, Robert (October 23, 1990). "Consumer Guide". The Village Voice. Retrieved August 29, 2015.
  20. ^ "Select End Of Year Lists". Retrieved 13 April 2017.
  21. ^ Robert Dimery; Michael Lydon (7 February 2006). 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die: Revised and Updated Edition. Universe. ISBN 0-7893-1371-5.
  22. ^ Discogs - the Surftones profile and discography
  23. ^ Ryan, Gavin (2011). Australia's Music Charts 1988–2010 (pdf ed.). Mt. Martha, VIC, Australia: Moonlight Publishing.
  24. ^ "French album certifications – Pixies – Bossanova" (in French). Syndicat National de l'Édition Phonographique. Retrieved 16 April 2019.
  25. ^ "British album certifications – Pixies – Bossanova". British Phonographic Industry.Select albums in the Format field. Select Gold in the Certification field. Type Bossanova in the "Search BPI Awards" field and then press Enter.
  26. ^ "The Record: Unfinished Business". Capital Public Radio. 3 February 2015. Retrieved 16 April 2019.
  27. ^ "American album certifications – Pixies – Bossanova". Recording Industry Association of America. If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Album, then click SEARCH. 
  28. ^ "Pixies: Bossanova". Retrieved on August 14, 2020.