9.09.2008

Music Review: Calexico's Carried to Dust

by Vincent Lee

The title of Calexico's new album Carried to Dust sounds more like an old western movie than an indie record. Interestingly enough, the album seems to reflect the theme of an old western with a Spanish tinge. That tinge can be heard in the few tracks that are sung in Spanish. With 15 tracks spanning 45 minutes the album is of moderate length. Carried to Dust is solid, but is largely inconsistent which subsequently holds it back.


The first few songs set the stage for the rest of this album with the western movie atmosphere. Every few songs there's an instrumental or a track sung in Spanish. (Although Calexico is from Tucson, AZ, the band takes its name a border town in California.) These Spanish tracks usually feel like a transition track from scene to scene in a movie. The Spanish-language songs frequently have a strong mariachi feel to them. These tracks, while entertaining at first, are ultimately rather boring or unnecessary. The number of so-so songs is one issue for Carried to Dust. Amidst breathtaking songs such as “Man Made Lake” and “The News About William” are duds like the album's finale “Contention City.” Furthermore, with the fluffy instrumentals and Spanish numbers, the amount of truly great individual content on the album is rather low. That said, the album still plays through smoothly. It transitions very well from track to track. One way of explaining this record is to say it is greater than the sum of its parts.

In the end, Calexico's Carried to Dust is a mediocre album: not overwhelmingly good, but not severely lacking. From an individual track standpoint, the record is largely inconsistent, but as a whole it is a decent and nice listen. Carried to Dust could attract a rather diverse group of listeners. An alternative country sound is very present. Southern rock vibes could also be felt. The mix of sounds makes it so that no one particular style is overwhelming. While Carried to Dust is nothing groundbreaking or spectacular, it does have merits.

(The photo shows Calexico performing in Toronto, Canada in 2005; the photo is by gordasm of Toronto via Flickr, using a Creative Commons license. Calexico continues its world tour with a live performance tomorrow, Sept. 10 in Dublin, Ireland. To see Calexico's video for "Two Silver Trees" from Carried to Dust, please check below.)








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