Review Summary: The fiesta is back...
At the beginning of last decade, Calexico settled into one comfortable alt-country/indie folk bubble that produced the brilliant Algiers
. It seemed the band desired to maintain that momentum and soon after fell into a trap. Although the songs still shared the same lush arrangements and beautiful vocals, the diversity previous affairs possessed was fading. Thankfully, they must have realized this as well and decided to shake things a bit for this latest release. El Mirador
ended up as one sweet, celebratory Latin-infused mix that was sorely missed from their recent output. Picture it as a party in a small town square, where the lovely acoustic leads of “Harness the Wind”, rich horns and sing-alongs of “The El Burro Song” or the twangy Americana licks on “Rancho Azul” would happily resound. In a dance-your-worries-away style, the group feels once more rejuvenated. At the same time, “Cumbia Peninsula” & “Cumbia del Polvo” are those types of tracks that would bring people to dance around the band. The laid back rhythms are played with fervor and taste. Small details constantly enhance the listening experience, whether they are various percussion instruments, sound effects or background vocals. The title track also invokes the lovely Buena Vista Social Club atmosphere, its chorus being one of the catchiest on the album.
It wouldn’t be a Calexico record without a range of introspective, bittersweet cuts. However, even these retain somewhat uplifting melodies this time. “Then You Might See”, “Constellation” and “Caldera” are highlights, but really, there are no disappointing tracks to be found on the LP. El Mirador
flows really smooth from start to finish. Joey Burns’ silky croon continues to be a focal point, yet your attention will often be distracted by the gorgeous music surrounding his voice. As per usual, the front man sings about love and the hardships of life, especially from an immigrant’s point of view. These include fighting for freedom, escaping poverty by any means possible, providing for one’s family or meeting your loved ones again after long periods of time. Such topics alongside the multicultural nature of their music resonate harder than ever together lately. Meanwhile, “Turquoise” stands out as it evokes a moodier vibe, reminiscing previous Western-like cinematic, instrumental experiments. Actually, this is the final piece of the puzzle the band needs to place back into their music. Blending all these elements again would surely lead to another excellent album. Nevertheless, El Mirador
is definitely on the right path, becoming Calexico’s strongest effort since Algiers
. These cheerful tunes make for an immediate, fun affair.