I grew up with Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass playing in my house. Alpert’s soulful trumpet (still going strong today, by the way) cut to the heart and painted such landscapes. So any band that hints of border-town jangle, brassy horns and acoustical guitar riffs brings back some great memories.
Calexico’s newest album, Algiers has not disappointed in this effort. The opening track, Epic, has a hint of plaintive solo trumpet and bassy six-string thumps. Founding members Joey Burns and John Covertino share vocals that blend perfectly with the image of indie-desert classical tunes.
Sinners in the Sea is a beautiful, rumba-paced ballad that uses a haunting chorus with off-key instrumentals to build tension, but for more modern tastes, Fortune Teller harkens an influence The Shins and Kris Orlowski, backed by low-key snare.
The title track, Algiers is just lovely. All instrumental, smooth and tejano-jazzy. A showcase of talent from each band member. I can see this going on for ten or fifteen minutes, easily at a live show and I think I would be sorry when it ended. For lovers of romantic Spanish songs, No Te Vayas will be the standout: trumpeter Jacob Valenzuela wrote this song and teases in some beautiful solos.
This sound isn’t ‘just’ for the indie crowd, or TexMex or world music aficionados. There are plenty of songs for every category and some reviewers have actually complained that this album (Calexico’s seventh) is too commercial. Bah. Fifteen tracks long, Algiers is about five tracks longer than most but probably short by this band’s previous works. If I had to pick a single for radio play, Hush would fit in most every market. OK, maybe not hip hop. But overall, this album is a perfect choice for long-time fans and brand new ones. Hint, hint: Christmas is coming.