They say that Tucson, Arizona's Calexico were in need of a change of scene, so they headed down to Mexico City to write this, their ninth album. Did it pay off? It's hard to say. Though Edge of the Sun is a very good record by any measure, there is something about it all that feels frustratingly routine. It would, in short, be a stretch to call this a creative rebirth for the band.
Don't get me wrong: Calexico has been and remains one of America's very best groups. In top form, Joey Burns' enigmatic lyrics, thin but warm vocals and metronomic nylon-stringed guitar, set against John Convertino's endlessly creative, propulsive drumming, are an unsurpassed combination. But, when surrounded by horns, keyboards and a litany of guests (including Iron & Wine's Sam Beam, Band of Horses' Ben Bridwell, long-time collaborator Neko Case, Pieta Brown and more), this core duo's potent mix can feel watered down. Buried, even.
Still, on standouts like the cowboy folk of "When The Angels Played" (with its little nods to "Don't Think Twice"), the steely 6/8 drive of "Miles From The Sea," the creeping mystery of "World Undone" and the raucous instrumental named for the neighbourhood they visited in Mexico City ("Coyoacan"), the band approach the heights they hit and sustained in the late 1990s and early 2000s with The Black Light and Feast Of Wire.
So, no: Edge of the Sun may not be a masterpiece on that level. But, then again, what is? (Anti)