Release Date: Jan 26, 2018
Record label: Epitaph
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
Calexico spent the 2010s venturing from their Tucson home to make albums such as their New Orleans love letter Algiers and their ambitious trip to Mexico City, Edge of the Sun. For The Thread That Keeps Us, they decamped to the Northern California coast and recorded in a studio they nicknamed the Phantom Ship -- another change of scenery that allowed them to cast their sounds and songwriting wider than ever. They set the tone for the album with "End of the World with You," where they find "love in the age of extremes" and rough up their jangly pop with some of their wildest solos yet.
Calexico rarely make explicitly political songs, though circumstances can sometimes make them feel that way. Over the last two decades, the Arizona band’s principals, Joey Burns and John Convertino, have written often about transient workers, the homes that they make and the ones they leave behind; their music, too, crosses borders, blending American folk traditions with styles rooted in Mexico and elsewhere in Latin America. Even more than its predecessors, the band’s impassioned ninth album, The Thread That Keeps Us, is dedicated to immigrant experiences and the pains of displacement.
Calexico’s ninth studio album The Thread That Keeps Us continues the band’s rich tradition of combining folk, Latin rock, country, Americana and Tex-Mex under the affectionate umbrella term ‘desert noir’. This time around, however, the band decamped from Arizona to Panoramic House in Marin County, California to record. The influence of their temporary home is clear throughout the album as the songs expand into previously unexplored threads and broad sonic landscapes..
After years of transition, Calexico settled into a comfortable alternative rock territory, where Americana, jazzy, folk, reggae and Latino music are interspersed influences coloring the output. The group’s previous effort, Edge of the Sun was arguably the most straightforward affair whose strengths were mainly the melodic rhythms and Joey Burns’ sweet voice. Past them, there was less to discover than on previous gems such as Feast of Wire, The Black Light or even Carried to Dust and Algiers (which although steering towards the current style, had an utterly gripping atmosphere).
Joey Burns and John Convertino are definitely in it for the long haul. This is album number nine for the band that Wikipedia refers to as 'desert noir' and although the Calexico trademarks are all still very much in place, 2018 sees the Arizona refuseniks adding a little grit ‘n’ aggression to the mariachi. There’s other stuff too… The Thread That Keeps Us starts off strongly.
Calexico’s ninth album acts like a series of photos taken while moving on train across the US. But also a time-travelling train. And one that doesn’t go near the coast. With a Mariachi band or two nestled in a carriage down the way. Its 15 tracks might seem imposing, but at just 45 minutes and with several serene, all-too brief instrumentals, it flies by.
Arizona band Calexico's ninth studio album, The Thread That Keeps Us, features hints of the Tejano-tinged "desert noir" sound the band are known for — dreamily and languidly evoking the duo's home state. But where past iterations of the band's sound have been calmly enthralling, the trajectory that the new album takes doesn't come close to the same satisfaction. The issues start at track one: opening track "End of the World With You" jumps out of the gate with uncharacteristic boisterousness, but quickly morphs into the opposite of something promising.