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Algiers – 2012 (Anti-)

Reviewed by Michael Verity

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CDs by Calexico

Fifteen years and nine albums into their post-Giant Sand careers, Joey Burns, John Convertino and the crew they call Calexico continue to offer an ever-evolving definition of the "desert noir" sound they're credited with inventing. On "Algiers," an economically constructed 12-song set, the band rock gently like a boat at sea, rumble vigorously like a freight train in the night, sneak deceptively through darkened allies like a two-bit criminal and dance tenderly with their love as the dawn approaches.

Over the steady thump of bass drum and snare and the aristocratic strumming of acoustic guitar, Burns and Convertino weave their voices together to open the album with Epic, a song that's hardly epic in it's tone, but certain epic in its subtlety. Splitter, arguably the best cut on the album, beautifully melds rumbling freight rhythms with chiming piano and vibes lines and big fat baritone sax licks, as if the band were intent on splicing R.E.M. into a reel of tape dedicated to Boxcar Willie and Northern Soul.

"There's piano playing on the ocean floor, between Havana and New Orleans," they say on Sinner In The Sea, a slinky bit of cinematic seductiveness that sounds a little like Daniel Lanois channeling "West Side Story." Fortune Teller is beautiful in its delicate simplicity as is Hush, a song that can be improved only by repeated listenings.

The band's Latin influences are still in play (No Te Vas, Puerto), and there's no shortage of experimentation, making it an album that changes colors with every listen. With its pervasive vibe quiet introspection with sly seduction, "Algiers" earns a place on the CD rack as one of the better collections of music to be released this year.