By Catherine P. Lewis
Friday, October 5, 2012
Americana band Calexico has always maintained a delicate balance among rock, jazz and twang, influenced as much by traditional country and mariachi music as its Tucson environs. For “Algiers,” the group sought a change of scenery, recording in New Orleans and replacing its traditional Southwestern flavor with more of a pop flair.
The result is an instantly accessible collection of songs. The shimmering, jubilant boom of “Splitter” is almost shockingly peppy for a band that has typically relied on its rumbling intensity. “Fortune Teller” is a straightforward yet jangly ballad, while “Puerto” melds the band’s typical Latin influences with a catchy, rolling melody. Vocalist Joey Burns sings with chilling depth: The outstanding “Sinner in the Sea” finds him alternating between a seductive whisper and a cry so tense that it almost borders on panic.
While the group’s smoldering alt-country tone has faded, Calexico’s meticulously crafted orchestration still sounds effortless, giving the band’s sound an expressive texture: “No Te Vayas” showcases a heavy jazz influence and ends with the mournful pulse of a sole horn; “Epic” has a haunting lushness that’s both cinematic and classic Calexico. “Algiers” isn’t as distinctive as the band’s earlier albums, but it boasts the same graceful songcraft that makes the group’s music so distinctive.