Calexico – El Mirador
City Slang – 8 April 2022
From the first burst of mariachi brass, the swells of Calexico transport listeners to the dusty borders of desert landscapes where El Mirador lives and breathes. Amidst the scrub and sand, Joey Burns and John Convertino paint portraits with colours highlighting a region that seems to exist outside of time. Along the way, you discover that while the sounds may seem foreign, they are also intoxicating.
Burns and Covertino call on an array of guests to give voice to the sound of their dreamscapes. Guatemalan Gabby Moreno infuses the title track with the kind of willowy Spanish vocals that are an intoxicating counterpoint to the English language sections, “I was lost and never knew/ Walked in circles in search of you/ The bottom of an endless sea/ A ghost of what I used to be.” All this plays off against horns, slashing guitars and Latinesque tinges.
The music of El Mirador creates an ever-changing multicultural kaleidoscope of the American southwest. Convertino’s drumming on “Harness the Wind,” instead of seeming busy and out of place, somehow fits perfectly within the framework of almost bell-like guitars in this Sam Beam (Iron and Wine) sung love letter, “Broken wings/ You mended mine/ Turned me around and picked me up/ And helped me on my way.” Competing with the mystery of the music is the ability of Burns and Covertino to find the perfect accomplices to bring these songs to life.
Even when confronting the issues that separate us as people, they find a way to channel both the lack of dignity and hope that exist in equal measure on “Cumbia Penninsula.” Horns are pushed back in the mix, yet vocalist Jairo Zavala paints indelible images of a world in need of a reboot. Burns’s words paint a canvas of what the song and the album are trying to create, “The album is trying to convey openness. Look around you. If you’re in the North, you need a South to live in balance. We’re all breathing together.”
Despite the extraordinary circumstances of the last few years, the album is imbued with an incredible sense of optimism that permeates the proceedings. Infused with piano and Cuban percussion, “Liberada” highlights the enduring importance of family as it recounts resilience in the face of adversity while understanding that celebrating an uncle’s 80th birthday is still of the utmost importance.
Throughout El Mirador, Calexico illustrates what it means to live in a landscape that reflects a part of the world often forgotten. Shining a light on this region, they not only bring life into a greater focus they also establish the undeniable nature of this land and the hope that exists in the midst of heartbreak. Connecting with this music, we all can become more human. Such is the legacy of Calexico and El Mirador.
“El Mirador” is out April 8th, 2022 – Pre-order now