Missed Music

Music you didn’t know you needed…until now.

Southwestern Indie Rock from Calexico

These guys are hard to pin down and clearly they don’t want to be. Calexico, as the name suggests, is primarily a blend of Rock and Mariachi Tex-Mex music. However, they pull heavily from jazz and even some stuff that by itself might be shelved in New Age.

I'm sure there's a line in a song that tells me what a Feast of Wire is, but I've missed it.

I'm sure there's a line in a song that tells me what a Feast of Wire is, but I've missed it.

They’ve released 6 albums, beginning in 1997. Their early releases show their roots more, but over time they have added layers to the sound, more instruments, and better songwriting. In 2003, they really hit their stride and released their fourth album, Feast of Wire.  This one got them some wider notice and made the Billboard Heatseekers and Independent album chart.

The sound is all grown up. They experiment fearlessly and successfully and switch styles with ease. Vocalist Joey Burns’ breathy alto leads the band through some accessible pop songs, usually with a southwestern flavor. They mix in plenty of instrumental pieces, some of which are haunting, some funky, and some just plain weird. Strings and horns wander in and out of the album and are used traditionally or experimentally, depending on the song.

I especially like 8 songs from this release.

  • Sunken Waltz – Accordion, acoustic guitar, and electric base swell and flow thorugh this traditional-sounding frontier-west storyteller.
  • Quattro (World Drifts In) – Layered guitar, delicate vocals, and horns change the vibe a bit. This might be my favorite on the release.
  • Not Even Stevie Nicks – I don’t know what to call this. This has very little southwestern feel to it. Just a great acoustic pop song. Listen to the sample.
  • Close Behind – This instrumental sounds like it was lifted straight from a Sergio Leone spaghetti western.
  • Attack El Robot! Attack! – I mentioned weird songs… experimentation… This is. I’ll tell you right now this won’t be for everyone. To be honest, I’m not sure why I like it, but spacey percussion, oozy guitar, and meandering horns always get my head bobbing.
  • Dub Latina – And here is some Chillout music, played like this is all they’ve been doing for years. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear this on a Chemical Brothers disc.
  • Guero Canelo – Swinging back to their Mariachi roots, they drop perhaps the most danceable song on the disc. I don’t remember whether they did this when I saw them, but I bet it would be fun.
  • Crumble – This one is straight up Jazz and a very, very cool track. I always forget when this comes up on my iPod who it is and have to look. I expect it to be from an Ocean’s Eleven or Ocean’s Twelve soundtrack, or something.

At Bonnaroo 2004, I stopped by their stage when they were doing a sound check and heard them do a fantastic cover of Tom T. Hall’s “Tulsa Telephone Book.” I have been looking for a recording of it for years and discovered just today that they released this song on a tribute album in 1998. Now I just have to get my hands on a copy. Woo hoo!



May 7, 2009 - Posted by | Indie, Popular, Rock

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