Calexico – Edge of the Sun

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. On these tracks, Edge of the Sun recalls Garden Ruin and Feast of Wire,
although the latter album negotiated its sonic and emotional twists
with more drama. It’s almost as though these songs are so sunwashed that
they just can’t be truly dark, even when the band tries its hardest.
“Beneath the City of Dreams,” a tale full of dealers and getaway cars,
might have had more heft if it had appeared on Algiers or Carried to Dust, although Gaby Moreno‘s
cameos almost get it there; similarly, the “days of sorrow” referred to
on “Moon Never Rises” feel distant, not recent. On the other hand, the
gentle melancholy of “Follow the River” and the squinty-eyed, implosive
“Bullets & Rocks” feel genuine. As always, Edge of the Sun
is beautifully crafted, from the gorgeous arrangements and chord
changes on “Coyoacán” and “Woodshed Waltz” to “Miles from the Sea”‘s
poignant lyrics, which fall somewhere between a short story and a
lullaby. Still, it’s hard to shake the feeling that this album is a
little perfunctory compared to what came before it, and at times, it’s
predictable: “When the Angels Played” is the kind of dusty, strummy song
that sounds like it should have a harmonica solo — and sure enough, it
does. It’s notable that Edge of the Sun‘s
brightest highlight is “Cumbia de Donde,” a celebration of the
footloose life. As pleasant as the album is, this time it feels like Calexico are just passing through.

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