Upon hearing Falling From The Sky – the opening song on this, the ninth studio album in 19 years by Calexico – long-term followers of the band are likely to experience cognitive dissonance. A peppy number bedecked with mellotrons, chiming bells and tooting brass and blessed with an easily-digestible melody, it’s the musical equivalent of sinking into a warm bath.
But the listener’s pleasure is likely to be mingled with a degree of discomfort. Haven’t Calexico written this song countless times before? And do we really need another Calexico album?
Edge Of The Sun answers that question with an unequivocal ‘yes’ not because there’s much in the way of innovation or originality across its 12 tracks, but rather because it’s so damn good. These are thoughtfully composed, beautifully arranged and exquisitely performed songs that touch upon folk, Tex-Mex, Latin rock and country. In other words, it is, superficially at least, like every other Calexico album with the exception of 2006’s anomalous Garden Ruin.
For Edge Of The Sun, Joey Burns and John Convertino – the band’s two pillars – decamped to Mexico City (shockingly, given the band’s portmanteau name, the first time they’ve recorded there) and enlisted an impressive roll call of guests including Iron And Wine’s Sam Bean, Neko Case and Band Of Horses’ Ben Bridwell (although it’s Guatemalan Gaby Moreno who makes the biggest impact, contributing vocal turns on Cumbina De Donde and Beneath The City Of Dreams).
Much of Edge Of The Sun is as comfortable as an old pair of slippers. When The Angels Played is a lovely, lilting country number; Tapping On The Line is Calexico at their most minimalist but no less beautiful for its restraint, while Miles From The Sea is gorgeously melodic.
Fortunately, though, it’s not an oppressively tasteful album: Cumbia De Donde – a Sergio Mendoza cover – combines a gleefully cheesy organ refrain with a mariachi stomp, and Moon Never Rises has a skanking rhythm that’s without obvious precedent in the Calexico back catalogue.
So, then, Falling From The Sky is ‘just’ another Calexico album. But when every Calexico album promises such blissful escapism, that really isn’t a problem at all.