Calexico’s new album is more than just a mere collection of songs introducing seasonal celebrations. It is a construction of different cultures and perceptions of Christmas.
Calexico is an Arizona-based band, influenced by traditional Latino sounds of mariachi, conjunto, cumbia, Tejano merged with country as well as indie and post-rock, led by Joey Burns alongside John Convertino, Scott Colberg, Jacob Valenzuela, Martin Wenk, Sergio Mendoza and Jairo Zavala. Formed in the early 2000s and already having reached the Billboard charts, they do not cease to surprise their audience. All the members bring different characteristics to this album. Joey Burns describes the songs on Seasonal Shift as being “about change and how those changes resonate inside you”.
Diving into a detailed review of their album, I am left with an overwhelming sense of melancholy. Growing up in Spain and having left the country years ago, the song ‘Mi Burrito Sabanero’ is the one that resonates the most with my core. They were right it is a cross-culture celebration of Christmas. “Mi burrito sabanero va de camino al belén, si me ven si me ven, voy de Camino al Belen.” I cannot deny that I miss home, and this tune has only reminded me, not ceasing to make me happy to listen to it once again. I did not expect to find this song on the album but I have, and I am grateful to hear it. It is a song full of joy and playful memories.
Another song which truly captivates my attention is ‘Nature’s Domain’ it somehow reminds me and makes me think of The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. Imagine a young man travelling the Mediterranean and the dessert exploring their wonders and fruitful sensations. It might seem like an unusual comparison but if you have read it you will know exactly what I am talking about. “Winter’s disguise rendered me blind”; winter the coldest season, in winter comes Christmas however it renders you blind – it is almost ironic as it is the season that brings the joys of a merry Christmas. This part, folded by the melody, also takes me back to when I used to listen to ‘Behind The Bars’ by Elliot Smith on repeat, it forces you into calmness and tranquility, filling you with a multitude of diverse sensations.
Last but not least, ‘Tanta Tristeza’ , honestly I am truly left only to amaze at the diversity of their album. But you have to listen to the words: “Cuantas historias unas de amor, los días de gloría, no morirán las memorias” – “How many love stories, days of glory, memories won’t die”. It is quite true that at Christmas sometimes we sit and reminisce about all the stories. We gather with family and friends and remind ourselves about all of those small cheerful memories. The album concludes with the ‘Mi Burrito Sabanero’ reprise, a collection of different voices around the world each one with a unique way of saying Merry Christmas/Happy Holidays! Definitely my favourite part of the album.
Seasonal Shift is out now via City Slang
Review by Hind El Bouaissaoui