Although Calexico has been one of my favorite bands of the past year, I've yet to review any of their releases on my site for some reason. After years of hearing their different releases, I finally purchased one of their discs and didn't stop until I had nearly their whole catalog. There's something about their dusty, Southwestern sound that makes at least one of their releases an almost weekly listen in my stereo. While I would highly recommend both their Black Light and Hot Rail releases, this new EP is nothing to sneeze at either.
Although an EP is often times a release for artists to toss off some b-side tracks and grab at a little extra money, this is one that is almost completely without filler. Instead, you get 4 entirely new tracks (including 2 versions of one), and 3 remixes/reworkings of older tracks and a couple music videos to play on your computer. Not only that, but there's a very wide variety of music on the release, including instrumentals that range from mellow to downright minimal, as well as some more rollicking numbers that are some of the best work the group has done.
Starting off the disc is a nice, instrumental version of "Sonic Wind" (from last years Hot Rail) that replaces the vocals with a snaking trumpet part, while the track "Crystal Frontier" (which is the obvious highlight of the album) follows it up with a blast of horns and some of the best vocal work that Joey Burns has ever done. The surprisingly upbeat-sounding track is actually one of the most political that the group has ever done, brining up the touchy issue of immigration and sneaking across the border into the United States from Mexico. Although the track works well with the boosted instruments, the acoustic version of the same track later in the disc is ever more poignant and again shows off just how great of a singer Burns has become.
Elsewhere on the disc, Two Lone Swordsmen turn "Untitled III" into a downbeat, gurgling electronic piece that doesn't sound at all out-of-place while "Hard Hat" is an almost 8-minute chiming ambient piece that is spooky and bleak. The group also turns in an excellent cover of Mark Eitzel's "Chanel No. 5" and "Crooked Road And The Briar" is a rumbling rock track that is also one of the standouts on the disc. Although the auto-start of the videos on the disc is somewhat annoying when listening to the disc in a computer CD player, they're all very nicely done (especially the grainy visuals of "The Black Light") and are a nice bonus on top of the almost 40 minutes of music already included on the disc. Honestly, I can't wait for more from the duo.