No stranger to sharing the spotlight, Calexico is steeped in the spirit of collaboration. They’ve made cameos on four Neko Case albums, teamed up with Iron & Wine for a fantastic EP (In the Reins), and played alongside R&B singer/composer Lizz Wright. It’s no surprise, then, that Edge of the Sun is chock-full of musical guests. “As we began working on it, we started inviting people and it was a natural thing,” explains frontman Joey Burns.
Burns sees his band’s ninth album as “coming from the direction of darkness seeking light, or riding the line between both.” And nowhere is that more apparent than on single “Falling from the Sky”. Grafting glossy synths and an exultant trumpet atop lonesome lyrics, the song goes from weary and worn to boisterous and triumphant. By the final verse, Burns and Band of Horses’ Ben Bridwell sound like they’ve spotted a widening keyhole of light after wallowing for years in a dark tunnel.
Calexico’s colleagues and cronies, including Case, Bridwell, Sam Beam (Iron & Wine), and Nick Urata (DeVotchKa), help them dial up the energy with feisty vocals and esoteric instrumental flourishes. Take “Cumbia de Donde”, a steamy and ebullient number overflowing with fiery horns, distorted electric guitars, raspy coro-pregón, and the seductive growl of Mexican indie pop singer Carla Morrison. Anchored by a catchy chorus, the song absolutely sizzles. “Moon Never Rises” has a dark and alluring burlesque vibe, while “World Undone” pairs crisp acoustic fingerpicking with a violin, qanun, oud, and clarinet, courtesy of the Greek ensemble Takim.
Incorporating contributions from musicians of diverse genres and geographies — from Guatemala to Greece — the outfit segues smoothly between organ, harmonica, and pedal steel alt country (“When the Angels Played”); soothing and wistful folk (“Miles from the Sea”); and sultry, simpering tejano (“Coyoacán”). Yet, despite these disparate currents and impulses, Edge of the Sun never sounds directionless or scattered; you’ve always got the sense that these guys know exactly where they’re headed. Building a cohesive album from such eclectic source material is no easy task, but Calexico, drawing on the 25-year partnership between Burns and multi-instrumentalist John Convertino, put on a clinic.
Essential Tracks: “Falling from the Sky”, “Cumbia de Donde”, and “World Undone”