Calexico discs are each like refreshing open-window car rides through the Southwest nothingness, all dusty sunsets and light breezes and sleepy words strung together and bleary-eyed night drive confessions. And the Arizona outfit’s latest, Carried To Dust (even sporting woodprint-style cover art of a mysterious female driver as seen from the backseat), continues this tradition with a sturdy disc of smooth Americana and scratchy mariachi melodics. Calexico is all about atmosphere and once album opener “Victor Jara’s Hands” kicks into its sparse, South-of-the-border stomp, the album’s tone never wavers, which unfortunately also means it never surprises.
“Writer’s Minor Holiday” channels a cartoon graveyard version of the Pixies and the superb “Two Silver Trees” slowly builds into a spindly, effervescent chorus of drizzling piano and brushed snares. “The News About William” sways with pointed heartbreak and foggy strings, until Joey Burns’ vocals ascend into a harmonic climax.
Some nicely conceived guest spots illuminate the otherwise anonymous second half. Iron & Wine’s Sam Beam stops by for “House of Valparaiso” a subdued hymn augmented with beautifully muted trumpets and an ethereal vocal line. “Contention City” allows Douglas McCombs (Tortoise) to submerge Calexico into a swampy, ghostly ambience letting the album splinter and diverge like rainwater on the passenger-side window of a car speeding across the country’s darkest highway.
Favorite Track: “Two Silver Trees”
Reviewer Bio - Christopher j Ewing is a writer and filmmaker living in Los Angeles with a girl and a designer dog. He is in a band by himself, has a myspace account at www.myspace.com/wastedpotentialproduction and a production company at (www.wastedpotentialproductions.com) for freelance film, video and journalism work.