The ninth studio album from Tucson, Ariz.-based Calexico is a sonic road trip through the American Southwest, the roots of rock ‘n’ roll, the music of Mexico and more.
There has always been a strong Latin strand to the band’s country-tinged indie rock. “Edge of the Sun” is partly inspired by time spent in Mexico City, so cumbia and mariachi sounds mix with guitar and pedal steel. And that’s not all — there are dollops of everything from folk to electronica here, mixed together with verve and culture-crossing curiosity.
Core Calexicans Joey Burns — on vocals and guitar — and multi-instrumentalist John Convertino are joined by guests including Iron & Wine, Neko Case, Ben Bridwell from Band of Horses, Mexican singer Carla Morrison, Spanish musician Amparo Sanchez and members of the Greek group Takim.
The opener “Falling From the Sky” is a soaraway single, buoyed by jaunty trumpets. From there the album crisscrosses borders and genres: “Bullets and Rocks” is a moodily entrancing meditation on migration, while “When the Angels Played” is a harmonica-soaked country charmer about loving and leaving.
Mexican sounds assert themselves on “Cumbia de Donde,” the instrumental “Coyoacan” and the brooding “Beneath the City of Dreams,” then it’s back to the U.S. heartland with “Woodshed Waltz.”
Through it all, Burns’ weathered, wistful voice lends the songs a sense of restless yearning. At its best, the music on “Edge of the Sun” is retro, modern and timeless. For evidence, check out “Tapping on the Line,” which blends an antique-sounding drum machine with a plaintive vocal that channels Edward Snowden-era concerns about surveillance.
Jill Lawless, Associated Press