Southwestern band addresses environmental disasters and politics

Arizona- based indie rock band, Calexico recently released its ninth album, The Thread That Keeps Us. The two members of this band include Joey Burns and John Convertino, who formed the band over two decades ago. They got their name from the border of California and Mexico, and the title certainly fits their style as they combine cultural, political, and environmental perspectives within their music. 

One of the most popular songs from this album is, “Under the Wheels.” This track is kicked off with a percussion sounding instrument that is spiced up with an electric synth and other electronic sounds. This track stands out from Calexico’s other tracks and fits under electric, alternative and reggae type style. This groovy track is a sign that Calexico is trying to spice up and evolve their sound. There is a southwestern influence intertwined throughout this song, showing a sign of peace in this era of war machines. They sing, “When the world falls apart/ from the core to the seams/ the threads that we seek,” to represent a direction that brings society closer to resolve political problems they are experiencing. 

Another track that stands out in this album is “Voices in the Field.” After watching the music video to this track, it is apparent that the song was inspired by poems on postcards. Burns tells UK newspaper The Sun, “Lyrically, “Voices in the Field” is drawing from the poems Syrian refugees wrote on postcards to deal with their experiences and feelings. I read similar heart-wrenching accounts from Central America and Africa.” This alternative/indie track acquires vibes of rock with its compelling electric guitar and percussion. Lyrically, the track resonates with loss and desolation as they sing, “leaving behind all that we’ve built/ the garden now in ashes and the roof is caving in.” There is a strong notion of an immigrant or refugee who feels obligated to run from home throughout this track. Deforestation and abandonment are also expressed and represented, creating a turbulent and mournful emotion. 

A track that stands out in the record is “The Town & Miss Lorraine.” This song has more of an acoustic, indie vibe to it. With its slower tempo percussion and delicate sounding guitar picking, this track takes us back to some of Calexico’s older music like, “He Lays In The Rains” released in 2005. “The Town & Miss Lorraine,” tells the story of a “washed-up ship”, where the storyteller finds a book from a caption. This track expresses abandonment, loneliness and a state of self-reflection through the lines, “The fire inside my soul is nearly flickered out/ so I order another one.” 

A track with a similar vibe from The Thread That Keeps Us is, “Girl in the Forest.” Its slow strumming acoustic guitar paired with Burns’ ethereal voice and slight reverb creates a mellow alternative style. This song tells a story symbolizing the importance of relationships and the realization of oneself through the lines, “Mmm well the world was spinning so fast/ nobody took the time/ it was the girl in the forest/ who opened my eyes.” This track fits right in with Calexico’s usual written song when it comes to scenery and the environment. Towards the end of the song, Calexico expresses the importance of nature, and how society needs to prioritize and value it more before it is all gone. Burns sings, “What part of nature can you honestly say/ is beyond your explanations for short term gain/ something’s got to change before everything’s/ gonna disappear right before our eyes.”

 This 15-track album also comes in a deluxe version with an additional seven songs. While this album sounds similar to their previously released records, there are added genres of reggae and jazz that have never been heard in a Calexico album. With more chaos and raw riffs than ever before, it is apparent that the band is re-upping their sound and expressing greater battles to their listeners.

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