Edge Of The Sun
Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)
Tucson’s prolific and invariably compelling noir-rock group Calexico hits an important milestone this year, as 2015 marks their 20th anniversary as a band. But Calexico has grown a lot since Joey Burns and John Convertino first released 1997’s Spoke, their atmospheric and haunting debut album. They’ve expanded as a band, both in sound and personnel, taken to frequent collaborations, and never hesitated to experiment with genre, be it cumbia or flamenco.
Most importantly, Calexico has yet to put out a bad album. And while their full-length output has swung from electic, dusty Southwestern mixtapes to more pop-oriented alt-country albums, Edge Of The Sun – their eighth proper album – finds Calexico offering up a fitting career summary that doubles as another strong step forward.
Calexico brought with them an impressively long list of guest musicians for this round, ranging from longtime friends and collaborators like Sam Beam and Neko Case to Mexican singer-songwriter Carla Morrison and Greek band Takim. From a distance this might suggest a dilution of Calexico’s unique aesthetic in favor of a revolving cavalcade of personalities, but it’s still Burns and Convertino guiding the course of these 12 songs. There’s diversity aplenty, but it’s ultimately an album that only Calexico could have created.
Edge Of The Sun is the most fun-sounding Calexico album in a while, in part because of how loose and freewheeling it is. The group eases into some dirty blues rock on “Bullets And Rocks,” a folk-tronic pulse on “Tapping On The Line,” cinematic Mexicana on “Coyoacan Theme,” and an electronic variation on Cumbia in the standout “Cumbia Donde.” The textures and treatments that colored Calexico’s best material in the past can still be found here, but they’re woven into the fabric of each song, rather than set aside as segues or interludes. As such, it’s a cohesive and complete statement, one of Calexico’s best yet. Then again, if it’s a dusty, Southwestern mixtape that you’re seeking, Edge Of The Sun has that covered as well.