Thursday, June 6, 2013

Calexico Spiritoso 2013

Calexico's latest studio record, Algiers, came out just last September, so this live record is a bit of a surprise. And a very pleasant surprise at that. 

The record was recorded live in Austria and Germany last summer while the band was touring Europe. The exciting news is that both concerts were recorded with symphony orchestras (Radio Symphonic Orchestra Vienna, and Deutsches Filmorchester Babelsberg), which adds a significant depth to the already cinematic scope of Calexico's work.

Four of the songs are from the then forthcoming Algiers, and the rest is drawn from Calexico's back catalog. The vinyl features ten songs, and the CD has twelve (a copy of the CD comes with your vinyl purchase). The sound is very good, and the orchestral backing is lush and appropriately recorded. The band is up front, but the orchestras add much to Calexico's sound.

If there's a complaint about Calexico, it is their frequent lack of energy. Many of their songs are sad, slow, minor chord works that either plod along or slyly invite you into their intimacy, depending on your personal reception of the music. When they do rock, it is exciting but rare. Many of their more upbeat material is Spanish in nature, songs that spring from their obvious love of Ennio Morricone's spaghetti Western soundtracks and southwest/Mexican music. The song selection here does nothing to change this, featuring more downbeat material than upbeat.

Disclaimer out of the way, if you like this band, hearing them with orchestral support is a very good thing. Joey Burns and John Convertino's compositions occupy a unique place in modern music, a folky, southwestern-Mexicali, country, post-rock blend that is consistently inspired. Their gentle melodies draw the listener into their world, and the blend of styles that is the basis for their own sound resonates in a way that makes it impossible to tell you who they sound like. They sound like Calexico.

You can hear several songs on their website Casa de Calexico. They also have many You Tube videos, including much of this new record. Check them out. They are an interestingly different band.

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