I am a little torn when it comes to live albums. Sometimes they are put together impeccably and add great depth to the artist’s music and offers interesting insight into how they sound when the barrier of audio mixing and mastering is stripped away. Other times however, the final product may in fact just sound flat, disappointing, and well, terrible. With Calexico’s Spiritoso, the result is certainly that of the former.
Calexico are a band whom have been around for several years and have released 9 full length albums. They hail from Arizona and the southern flair is clearly present in their music and is a a part of what makes them so unique. Their sound as been describes as a blend of ‘Americana, Tex-Mex, and indie-rock’. Originally only supposed to be released a limited edition vinyl for Record Store Day 2013, Spiritoso was recorded live in Germany on June 2012 with the Radio Symphonic Orchestra Vienna and the Deutsches Filmorchester Babelsberg.
The inclusion of this fantastic symphony really added so much to the group’s sound and to all their songs. This live recording offers such varying audible textures, and has so much depth, and is truly, a very one-of-a-kind listen. It would be hard to really find anything like it. The orchestral influence that is so seamlessly entwined with the band’s original mariachi-inspired sound is very fun to listen to. Very dynamic, yet so easy and simple to listen to at the same time, it is very common to find yourself forgetting that this is a live album you are listening to.
Mariachi guitar strumming, blaring trumpets which soar and descend, violins and cellos softly construct and deconstruct the atmosphere, and all the while Joey Burns’ vocals offer a very soft yet rugged tone to the whole production. The song writing effortlessly paints a picture in your head; one of you looking over a deep canyon abyss at sunset whilst in the middle of your favourite spaghetti-western, poncho, cowboy boots, cowboy hat and all. The music is very visual.
The song compositions are truly astounding and just offer a real fun ride. Some begin so soft and slow before launching into a full on top-speed pursuit, like on ‘Crystal Frontier’, that you may find you are out of breath by the end. Others build up with an anticipatory drawl before exploding into an audible ecstasy like on ‘Epic’. With Spiritoso, Calexico offer a very enjoyable and cinematic adventure through their entire discography. It is a journey fit for the John Wayne or Clint Eastwood in all of us and soon you just may find yourself looking for the same wild, noble experiences that could only have inspired such a wonderful and cascading escapade as the one which Calexico have presented.