Release Date: Sep 11, 2012
Record label: Anti
Genre(s): Americana, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, Indie Rock, Post-Rock, Alternative Singer/Songwriter
Over the course of their career, Calexico have always been able to create meticulously detailed worlds for their songs to inhabit. It seems as though drawn out steel guitar notes and mournful tones of trumpets and accordions can develop into entire landscapes in their hands. If there has been a constant in their time as a band, it’s been this ability to take the listener and drop them into a fully realized and completely believable musical environment that stretches across however many tracks any particular album runs.
¡Qué lástima! After years of piquing the interest of culturally diverse audiences with their border-bending blend of alt-country and mariachi music, Calexico have put away the pico de gallo. Now, centrifugal forces Joey Burns and John Convertino are back to their earlier style of introspective, haunting acoustic strains. For Algiers, they ventured to—no, not Algeria, but rather New Orleans, where there is a neighborhood by that name.
CalexicoAlgiers[Anti-; 2012]By Rob Hakimian; September 20, 2012Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOGTweetAlgiers is Calexico’s seventh album, and despite the four year break since their last non-soundtrack work, Carried To Dust, you can be fairly confident that you know what you’re going to get when heading into it: guitar-driven Americana, Spanish-inflections, simple song structures, and, most importantly, very fine song wiritng. Despite the break, the change of label, and the decision to uproot to New Orleans to record the album, Calexico sound more comfortable than ever on Algiers, continuing the more direct approach that began with 2006’s Garden Ruin. The album’s opening trio of songs each simper hazily in and out of existence in a matter of minutes, seemingly tossed off casually by the band.
Algiers is the latest in a long line of unperturbedly consistent Calexico records, the same ones that score the imaginary hip gas stations in the Cormac-McCarthy-by-way-of-Wes-Anderson southwestern border towns of the mind. And while there's nothing remarkably out of step with what they've done before, Calexico trade on their strengths in the "well-worn shoe" tradition of bands like AC/DC or Red House Painters-the same old thing as an irreplaceable standby. When the same old thing is this comfortable and contoured to your movements, it makes you wonder why you bother with anything new.
Geography has always played a big role in Calexico's music, even back when they were apprenticing with Howe Gelb in Giant Sand. Since going duo in the 1990s, Joey Burns and John Convertino have evoked the Southwest United States in heady, careful detail-- not only in sad stories about border crossers, doomed drivers, and restless wanderers, but in slyly adventurous music that combines Latin American traditions with North American rock'n'roll sounds. Impossibly, they showed such a keen facility with those styles and such a commitment to that sound-- and, by virtue, to that place-- that these two gringos never came off as exploiters or tourists.
Calexico had intended to record the follow-up to 2008's gorgeous Carried to Dust somewhere in Europe, but when those plans fell through, they chose America's most European city, New Orleans, as their destination. The change of scenery is definitely felt in Algiers, named for the neighborhood in which they set up shop. While Joey Burns and John Convertino haven't suddenly thrown Cajun and zydeco into their repertoire, there's still a rich stew (or should that be gumbo?) of sounds here.
After playing together for more than 20 years, it’s understandable that Joey Burns and John Covertino—who together form the nucleus of Calexico—felt creatively restless and compelled to tinker with their trademark sound for their seventh album, Algiers. And while there are some fine moments on the recording, one is often left wishing that the duo had chosen to delve deeper into the acoustic soundscapes that they excel at rather than exploring the edges of confessional pop music as they do here. Algiers gets off to a very promising start with “Epic,” an expansive, cinematic track that recalls the classic Calexico sound.
The desert rockers soak up some New Orleans spirit, with refreshing results…The seventh album from Joey Burns’ and John Convertino’s border band takes its title not from the Algerian capital, but the rather less storied district of New Orleans where the pair spent time recording in a converted Baptist church. At first the association seems incongruous. Calexico evoke a very different kind of America to the one commonly associated with the swampy humidity of Crescent City.
Joey Burns and John Convertino, the main players in Calexico, have (with plenty of help) put together an impressive and remarkably consistent discography. While they have a clear sound -- coated in dust, rooted in tehano, Americana, folk, etc. -- their consistent quality has presented itself in a variety of different sounds. Their new record, Algiers, both builds on its predecessor, Carried to Dust, and also kind of forgets about it.
To observe that Calexico have, on recent albums, become noticeably more stone-faced and sensibly adult might invite the question: when were they not? Well, the Arizona ensemble’s marriage of desolate country-rock and mariachi music never pitched itself at the youth – but there used to be blaring trumpets and daring attitude too. ‘Algiers’, their seventh album, is far less surface-level appealing, but the sad twang of a pedal steel and Joey Burns’ rich lyrical imagery draw you in, and depth and craftsmanship is slowly revealed. ‘Para’ might produce curious converts, if only for sounding weirdly like ‘Paranoid Android’, while ‘Puerto’ is the border-jumping highlight.Noel Gardner .
Arguably no genre of music lends itself to the widescreen, to the vast palette of emotions, as Americana. Think of the evocative imagery of small town America captured by Woody Guthrie as he took country music back to its folkiest roots or of the epic storytelling of Bruce Springsteen that Christopher Nolan can be envious of. Think of the emotional punches to the gut delivered by Uncle Tupelo or of the sheer sonic wizardry of their later incarnation, Wilco.
After my grand awakening regarding Arizona’s musical promise, I visited some of the state’s more well-known bands to further enrich my newfound appreciation. The most notable of those acts was Tucson folk-rock band Calexico. Over 16 years and six full-length LPs, they’ve created a legacy as the quintessential Arizona band, deftly mixing together Shins-esque indie, post-rock, folk, blues, Americana, alt-country, and a healthy portion of mariachi and Tejano music that both defines the state’s musical identity and acts as a cultural signpost.
Calexico Calexico, the proudly Southwestern band from Arizona led by the guitarist and singer Joey Burns and the drummer John Convertino, left home to record “Algiers” (Anti-), an album named after the neighborhood where it was recorded: a neighborhood of New Orleans across the Mississippi from ….
After forging a sound synonymous with their hot and dusty Arizona homebase, Joey Burns, John Convertino, et al., have taken a side-trip on their eighth album to the muggier atmosphere of New Orleans. Algiers shares its title with the town on the other side of the Mississippi River where the album was recorded, and from the outset there's a much livelier kick to the songs, as opposed to the more atmospheric elements for which Calexico have become known. The arrangements are still large – horns, strings, pedal steel, Acetone organ, vibraphone and twangy guitar all gloriously intermingle – and when concentrated on powerful songs like "Splitter" and "Sinner In The Sea," demonstrate the band at the top of their writing game.
Calexico have lost none of their power to evoke and enthral. James Skinner 2012 One advantage music has over other art is the power to evoke with breathtaking immediacy. This could be a fleeting memory or a whole period of your life… or something else entirely. The city of New York as the War on Terror heaves doggedly onward; a detailed, mythological Great Depression; endlessly sprawling suburban locales; crackling bonfires, dark pine forests and rich, sweeping landscapes.
New Orleans has a complex relationship with water. Not long after he arrived there, the Greek–Irish writer Lafcadio Hearn wrote of the city's "phenomenal" dampness: "It descends from the clouds and arises from the soil simultaneously; it exudes from wood–work; it perspires from stone..." Fed by and feeding that moisture are the infinite gallons of water that threaten to flood in from the surrounding lakes and over the banks of the Mississippi – the river that is also the city's lifeblood. New Orleans' struggle with the ominous power of that particular waterway (Tennessee Williams wrote that one could "almost feel the warm breath of the brown river") is well documented.
You can’t accuse Calexico of being unadventurous. With six albums to date, the Arizona band - headed by Joey Burns and John Convertino - have had a knack for evoking vast, vibrant images: 2003’s ‘Feast of Wire’ conjuring South American political icons and snowy Russian cities.Fast-forward four years and their latest LP, ‘Algiers’, traverses forward with the same vivid sense of exploration whilst hardly failing to impress. Recorded in a converted New Orleans church, the album discovers the history of the city’s soulful core that’s surrounded by a sea of darkness.