When a band gets so far along in their career, what can you expect from a new album? Calexico have long been an absolutely essential live act, but are now nine studio albums into a career that’s seen them produce numerous good-to-great albums, without ever delivering a classic must-have. To use a very stretched analogy, they’re a lot like a burrito, and not just because they blur the cultural lines between America and Mexico – a Calexico album can often be hearty and satisfying, contain some sublime moments, but overall lack that extra spark to make it truly special. Is Edge of the Sun the Calexico album to change all that (and save us from any more torturous food-related puns)? Possibly.
Upon hearing Falling From The Sky – the opening song on this, the ninth studio album in 19 years by Calexico – long-term followers of the band are likely to experience cognitive dissonance. A peppy number bedecked with mellotrons, chiming bells and tooting brass and blessed with an easily-digestible melody, it’s the musical equivalent of sinking into a warm bath. But the listener’s pleasure is likely to be mingled with a degree of discomfort.
CalexicoEdge Of The Sun(Anti-)Rating: 4 stars (out of 5) Tucson’s prolific and invariably compelling noir-rock group Calexico hits an important milestone this year, as 2015 marks their 20th anniversary as a band. But Calexico has grown a lot since Joey Burns and John Convertino first released 1997’s Spoke, their atmospheric and haunting debut album. They’ve expanded as a band, both in sound and personnel, taken to frequent collaborations, and never hesitated to experiment with genre, be it cumbia or flamenco.
Back as far as 2006’s Garden Ruin, Calexico began trying to escape the trap of a distinctive sound they’d spent years perfecting. Up until then, you could count on Joey Burns, John Convertino, and company to evoke everything from spaghetti westerns to southwestern deserts to sun-baked city streets with forays into noise or jazz thrown in for good measure. Even after Garden Ruin, you could still count on the band for those things, but by then they had begun experimenting with different—even traditional pop—song structures.
A vintage synth belches out an insistent theme to open the noisy "Cumbia de Donde", a standout on Calexico’s new album. It’s one of the most striking moments on Edge of the Sun, a rusty tangle of staccato notes and syncopation atop a sinewy percussion groove. Not only does it chafe against the band’s default folk rock, but that central riff acts as a sort of code, as though the Tucson collective is offering coordinates for a northerly route connecting South and North, Sonora with San Francisco.
Review Summary: Celebrating lifeI must admit I haven't listened much to Calexico before the release of Algiers. However, I was instantly drawn into their multifaceted world and quickly found my way through their catalog to find some lovely music. Besides the straightforward, catchy tunes, that range from alternative rock, country to all sorts of Latin styles, there are many cinematic pieces that share a darker and rather haunting feel.
No stranger to sharing the spotlight, Calexico is steeped in the spirit of collaboration. They’ve made cameos on four Neko Case albums, teamed up with Iron & Wine for a fantastic EP (In the Reins), and played alongside R&B singer/composer Lizz Wright. It’s no surprise, then, that Edge of the Sun is chock-full of musical guests. “As we began working on it, we started inviting people and it was a natural thing,” explains frontman Joey Burns.
Calexico have had a chiaroscuro career: after each of the band's more somber efforts, they tend to return with something lighthearted. Such is the case with Edge of the Sun: arriving after Algiers' journey into New Orleans noir, it feels like a working holiday -- probably because it was close to one, with Joey Burns, John Convertino, and company spending ten days in Coyoacán, a Mexico City borough, for inspiration (later on, they recorded in Los Angeles and Athens, among other locales). Despite its Mexican beginnings, Edge of the Sun often tips toward Calexico's affable Americana, with particular success on "Falling from the Sky"'s tumbleweed pop and on the gently insistent "Tapping on the Line," which is elevated by Neko Case's clarion vocals.
They say that Tucson, Arizona's Calexico were in need of a change of scene, so they headed down to Mexico City to write this, their ninth album. Did it pay off? It's hard to say. Though Edge of the Sun is a very good record by any measure, there is something about it all that feels frustratingly routine. It would, in short, be a stretch to call this a creative rebirth for the band.Don't get me wrong: Calexico has been and remains one of America's very best groups.
Head here to submit your own review of this album. Calexico: well-connected darlings of the Southwestern sound in the folk sect of indie rock. They're nearing 20 years of releases now, and it reflects blindingly well in their songwriting. Edge of the Sun, despite its gloomy cover art, is sunshiny and bright until the end.
Originally an offshoot of alt. country figureheads Giant Sand, Joey Burns and John Convertino’s Calexico have proved successful enough to find themselves veterans in their own right. Their ninth full studio effort, Edge Of The Sun, sees them calling on a cast of crack collaborators, including Neko Case, Iron & Wine and Band Of Horses’ Ben Bridwell, for another collection of Latin-infused Americana.
Working loosely in a style that’s been called “desert noir,” Calexico is a band’s band. For close to 20 years, the group has been singleminded in its mission to erase lines between genres and geography. Anchored by core members Joey Burns and John Convertino, the Arizona ensemble has swerved through freewheeling detours into indie rock, Tex-Mex, and Americana, with flourishes of jazz, soul, and country along the way.
Calexico has been putting out a full-length album every two years for nearly a decade. Although 2003’s Feast Of Wire is still the album to beat, the majority of those releases have been good to great—no small feat for a band of such abundance and longevity. At times, core members Joey Burns and John Convertino have tried to expand the band’s sound by pushing it out of its Tucson, Arizona-based comfort zone; 2012’s Algiers was recorded in New Orleans, resulting in a subtle homage to the Big Easy.
Calexico — Edge of the Sun (Anti-)Calexico spun itself out of a ditch with 2012’s Algiers, following the pallid Garden Ruin with hallucinatory fire. A trip to post-Katrina New Orleans shaped that album, just the two founders working out the balance between twitchy agitation and florid romance. Edge of the Sun is both grander in scale and smaller in scope.