Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Calexico: Spiritoso

In this day and age, there is just so much music out there that it’s nearly impossible to hear it all, making it a full-time task to stay current. Besides the handful of “artists” who are actively funded by the major labels, who are the ones pushing their product to the dwindling shelves at your local Target store, there are those performers who rely on their devoted fan bases to purchase enough of their product and see their shows to keep them stocked up on Starbucks and lentils. Their overhead is lower, so their product is manufactured in smaller quantities. (Which is then shared over the Internet anyway.)
But because they usually have, at the very least, a modicum of integrity, critics love them, so if you’re one of those people who thrives on hearing the latest best-kept secret, you’re probably not reading this blog, but you can easily find your way to a band that hasn’t been spoiled yet.
Calexico sounds like nobody else we can imagine. They’re what used to be called alternative, with strong Tex-Mex overtones, and usually accompanied by mariachi horns. Being well-rounded musicians, they’re adept at several instruments, so the horns are often swapped with various keyboards and stringed instruments. The songs are well-written and melodic, passionately sung, so while they could easily be played in other styles, but their mariachi sound is so fitting that these are probably the best way to hear them.
With big, sweeping arrangements, they’ve got a sound that could be described as “cinematic”. This is very well demonstrated on Spiritoso, a live album recorded with two different orchestras, in front of very German enthusiastic audiences. Its release was extremely limited—originally only on vinyl for the most recent Record Store Day, followed two months later with a digital download. Despite that, it’s an excellent overview of what the band does, working well within its mood. Superior samples include “Frontera/Trigger”, “The News About William”, “Quattro” and “The Vanishing Mind”; if you like those, definitely seek out others from their catalog.

Calexico Spiritoso (2013)—
Current CD availability: none; vinyl and download only

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