Calexico have had a chiaroscuro career: after each of the band’s more somber efforts, they tend to return with something lighthearted. Such is the case with Edge of the Sun: arriving after Algiers’ journey into New Orleans noir, it feels like a working holiday — probably because it was close to one, with Joey Burns, John Convertino, and company spending ten days in Coyoacán, a Mexico City borough, for inspiration (later on, they recorded in Los Angeles and Athens, among other locales). Despite its Mexican beginnings, Edge of the Sun often tips toward Calexico’s affable Americana, with particular success on “Falling from the Sky”’s tumbleweed pop and on the gently insistent “Tapping on the Line,” which is elevated by Neko Case’s clarion vocals. On these tracks, Edge of the Sun recalls Garden Ruin and Feast of Wire, although the latter album negotiated its sonic and emotional twists with more drama. It’s almost as though these songs are so sunwashed that they just can’t be truly dark, even when the band tries its hardest. “Beneath the City of Dreams,” a tale full of dealers and getaway cars, might have had more heft if it had appeared on Algiers or Carried to Dust, although Gaby Moreno’s cameos almost get it there; similarly, the “days of sorrow” referred to on “Moon Never Rises” feel distant, not recent. On the other hand, the gentle melancholy of “Follow the River” and the squinty-eyed, implosive “Bullets & Rocks” feel genuine. As always, Edge of the Sun is beautifully crafted, from the gorgeous arrangements and chord changes on “Coyoacán” and “Woodshed Waltz” to “Miles from the Sea”’s poignant lyrics, which fall somewhere between a short story and a lullaby. Still, it’s hard to shake the feeling that this album is a little perfunctory compared to what came before it, and at times, it’s predictable: “When the Angels Played” is the kind of dusty, strummy song that sounds like it should have a harmonica solo — and sure enough, it does. It’s notable that Edge of the Sun’s brightest highlight is “Cumbia de Donde,” a celebration of the footloose life. As pleasant as the album is, this time it feels like Calexico are just passing through.

Originally published on Blogger

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