For nearly a decade, Arizona-based Calexico has been the voice of the American Southwest. With an eclectic sound evoking images of the sun-scorched rocks and windswept deserts of the border country, the collective has drawn inspiration from musical styles as diverse as the multinational origins of the band’s members.
However with their latest album, Garden Ruin, the group has taken a different tack. With lead singer and guitarist Joey Burns’ switch from nylon to steel strings, and a healthy dose of major keys and more pop elements, the feel of the album is considerably different than their previous endeavors. “We’ve always been perceived as a Southwestern band, and sometimes it’s good to look at those perceptions and challenge them,” said Burns. Calexico co-founder John Convertino agrees. “A band has got to keep changing and moving or it will get boring and break up,” said Convertino, who alternates between percussion and piano on the new album.
While a departure from the atmospheric ambience of their previous releases, Garden Ruin retains the energy and afflicted sincerity for which Calexico are so well known. “Their trademark Southwestern woe still permeates, but that melancholy is held to the fire until it burns white hot” (Details). With a more concerted focus on a song-oriented approach, Calexico highlights facets of its musical ability that have been left untapped, allowing them to fill out the sound they have been creating for the past decade. Put succinctly, Garden Ruin is where Calexico fill those dusty, empty landscapes they documented, with a big, big sound.