10. Calexico, “The Thread That Keeps Us”
Though this is not as solid as 2015’s Edge of The Sun, Joey Burns and John Convertino still have yet to make a subpar album. Their ninth continues to explore new vistas beyond their tried-and-true mariachi-flavored roots rock: “Under The Wheels” skanks along quite nicely and “Another Space” could be a Southwestern Talking Heads. More significant is a renewed urgency in their lyrics, no doubt heightened by the current, caustic climate (both literally and socio-politically.) The ballads, from the traditional-sounding “The Town and Miss Lorraine” to instrumental “Unconditional Waltz” and gentle closer “Music Box” rank among their all-time best.
“Under The Wheels”:
A few longtime fans have dismissed this as too much of a pop move from a band who really didn’t need one; as a longtime fan myself, I think it’s easily their best since Feast of Wire because it emphasizes their considerable melodic strengths while still remaining true to the uniquely regional sound they’ve always cultivated. When those beloved mariachi horns kick in on the chorus of opener “Falling From The Sky”, it’s recognizably Calexico, just as the elegant Crowded House-isms of “Miles From The Sea”, the quirky, electro-rock en Español of “Cumbia de Donde” and the slow-building Middle Eastern strings of “World Undone” are all Calexico. Neko Case also contributes to the magnetic, spare “Tapping On The Line” and “Follow The River” is as effective and profound a conclusion as “Find The River” was on Automatic For The People—not that this is anywhere near the level of R.E.M.’s classic LP, but I’d love to think it could have a similar impact on some unsuspecting 17-year-old out there.
Favorite tracks: “Falling From The Sky”, “Tapping On The Line”, “Miles From The Sea”, “Follow The River”
“Miles From The Sea”: