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Calexico



At first, Calexico may seem like a puzzle. OK, so Joey Burns and John Convertino are in Giant Sand, Friends of Dean Martinez, and OP8, and they've played on countless other people's records. And Calexico's music blends faux-spaghetti western soundtracks with indie rock, folk, and mariachi music. Sure. So why is there a spaceman holding a welding torch on the cover of the band's third record, The Hot Rail? Well, there's no telling for sure, but maybe it's a subtle sign to stop overanalyzing things so much and just listen. If you spend too much time trying to deconstruct the myriad of influences at work on this band's albums, you'll miss how lovely their melodies are.

If you live in Minnesota or Maine and it's February, then Calexico will be something of a cruel joke. To listen to one of their albums is to be transported back to the arid desert of the Southwest, where lizards, tumbleweeds, and dusty bars rule the landscape. While Calexico's songs might not have quite enough power and energy to melt snow, their sun-drenched, Mariachi-kissed music should warm even the most chilled heart. Theirs are songs about roads that go nowhere, shimmering in the mid-afternoon sun. Calexico's stirring instrumentals evoke broken hearts and last chances, abandoned homes and stunning vistas.

Calexico's first album was 1997's Spoke, soon to be followed by 1998's The Black Light. "Service and Repair," from 2000's The Hot Rail, is one of the few non-instrumental songs on the album and doesn't contain quite as much overt Mariachi influence as some of the other pieces. But the taut, precise drumming, wistful folk-styled vocals, and assured touches of pedal steel place it confidently alongside all of your favorite indie folk/twang-tinged ditties.

In 2001, Calexico released a backward-looking eight-song EP of unreleased tracks, B-sides, and remixes, Even My Sure Things Fall Through. "Crystal Frontier (Widescreen Version)" is vintage Calexico, a weird combination of Herb Alpert-style Ameriachi, Southern rock, indie, and dusty ambience. Even My Sure Things showcases Calexico's dazzling stylistic range, which covers the aforementioned elements, as well as Ennio Morricone-ish spaghetti western melodrama, '70s fusion, and cinematic minimalism.