Review: Calexico Manage a Cultural Crossover

Calexico/ El Mirador/Anti-Records
3.5 Out of Five Stars

Videos by American Songwriter

Calexico has built a career in exploring uncharted waters. Inspired by their Southwestern high desert origins, their music shares a mystique that provides possibilities for rock, jazz, psychedelia, and other forms of atmospheric ambiance. Over the course of their ten album/30-year career, the band’s two co-founders, Joey Burns and John Convertino have never failed to find inspiration from their specific environs, while still staying true to the progressive posture that’s mesmerized their followers since early on.

The band’s new album, El Mirador, finds them delving even deeper into those designs, sharing the sounds of cumbia, mariachi, and other South-of-the Border signature styles. It’s a festive affair to be sure, with songs such as “Harness The Wind,” “Liberada,” “El Burro Song,” “Cumbia del Polvo,” “El Paso,” and “The You Might Even See” seeing keyboardist, accordion player and percussionist Sergio Mendoza taking a lead in lending the Latin influence. The result is decidedly vibrant in its very nature, flush with a most celebratory sensibility. It’s sound that should inspire listeners to lean in, dance-along and imagine themselves at a fiesta where the sights and sounds meld as a rich sensory setting. 

While atmosphere and ambiance generally dominate any Calexico offering, El Mirador found Calexico mining a sound that’s decidedly down to earth. It’s a distinctive statement and one that reaffirms their allegiance to those Arizona environs. An intriguing offering, it also finds them expanding their appeal in a very distinctive way. More earthbound than ever, these seductive melodies ought to find them dialing into an audience that’s been targeted by any number of other contemporary combos who are paying heed to today’s multi-cultural mainstream. 

Still, knowing Calexico’s history of sharing intrigue and experimentation, it’s doubtful that there was any commercial consideration involved. Yet, given the fact that the English translation for the word “mirador” is “window” or “balcony,” it’s also safe to say the band is giving fans and followers a glimpse toward the future.

Photo Credit: Holly Andres

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