Review: Calexico – Algiers
Published on September 18th, 2012 | Jonny Abrams
In a year that has already brought fine new albums from fellow reliable old hands Lambchop and Tindersticks, Calexico make it a hat-trick of grizzled luxuriousness with their seventh studio album Algiers, the first on their new label ANTI-.
Although Joey Burns, John Convertino and co. neglected their usual Tuscon, Arizona studio in favour of a New Orleans-based setup, all the familiar Calexico hallmarks are present, correct and aligned with a well-honed approach to songwriting. Opener “Epic” is a steady, minor-key strummer that takes on a graceful swagger, with airy vocals, rising two-part harmonies and an oddly synth-sounding cello completing the effect, and the ensuing “Splitter” flaunts delightfully sporadic interjections of brass, cascading piano and chugging, low-in-the-mix power chords.
“Sinner in the Sea” sees Burns tell of “a piano playing on the ocean floor between Havana and New Orleans” and “souls hanging on every poet’s breath” as part of a commanding storyteller’s vocal performance, the whole thing building majestically in intensity, each element in unison, until it’s so sly and fiery-bellied that its juxtaposition with the romantic trumpet drama of its other section makes for a rather fine track indeed.
“Fortune Teller” brings to mind a gentle Big Star moment run past Paul Simon, borrowing some ooos from The Shins’ “New Slang” along the way, “Para” tops a sophisticatedly doomy chord progression with a memorably impassioned chorus of “Take it down / Take it all the way down”, the instrumental title track thrusts a Latin shuffle-step beat under some commendably cheese-drained Wild West drama (there’s that word again), while the Spanish-language melodrama (to mix it up a bit) of “No Te Vayas” is pulled off with all the panache that we’ve come to expect from this lot.
After the slow-burning, blissed-out “Hush”, “The Vanishing Mind” brings the curtain down exquisitely, forging an air of foreboding with its acoustic arpeggios and sweeping strings before riding out on pure Calexico elegance. All in all, Algiers makes for another splendid chapter in this band’s enviable back catalogue, albeit one that’s short on surprises for the already initiated.
Rocksucker says: Three and a Half Quails out of Five!
Algiers is out now on City Slang. For more information please visit www.casadecalexico.com