By Sasha Goldblatt
Americana/Tejano indie rock band Calexico released its second collaborative album with folk rock/indie folk singer-songwriter Iron and Wine on June 14, 2019, titled “Years to Burn.” The album consisted of a mix of these genres, mostly balanced between indie folk and a bit of Tejano. I found the album to be a bit underwhelming with less originality and variety between tracks than I had initially expected.
The first three tracks, “Heaven’s Left,” “Midnight Sun,” and “Father Mountain,” all blend together with a similar tempo and instrumentation using guitar, brass, piano, and light percussion. Although the intensity of the instrumentation changes, such as adding additional layers of harmony in “Midnight Sun,” I still find that these tracks are forgettable and would be hard to differentiate if heard separately. This causes a weak start to the album, although it does set the tone for the following songs. The use of brass in these tracks do make them stand out among other albums in the genre.
“Outside El Paso” is a fully instrumental, ambiguous track that paints the scene of what the streets outside El Paso sound like. The solo trumpet, muffled percussion, and background noise bring a unique dissonance and interpretive sound. This is an extremely creative track that transitions into the next portion of the album. Although I would not listen to this individually, it does tie the album together.
Next is “Follow the Water,” a pretty simple but beautiful track with basic guitar and piano, but unique melodic variation that makes it stand out. This better demonstrates vocal abilities as well.
Next is “The Bitter Suite (Pájaro / Evil Eye / Tennessee Train),” which is three tracks tied into one eight minute long track. “Pájaro,” which translates into “bird,” is sung entirely in Spanish with great acoustic guitar accompaniment and features an interesting vocal timbre, definitely standing out from every track so far. The instrumentals crescendo into the second part, “Evil Eye,” that sounds like improv with the brass, adding layers along as the track moves. Vocals come in with repetitive harmonies, though the instrumentals continue building.
The final part, “Tennessee Train,” brings it back down to a calm, acoustic sound and ties together the whole track. This is the most creative and well thought out track on the album, presenting creativity and lots of variety. The final two songs, “Years to Burn,” and “In Your Own Time,” bring back the sound that can be found in the beginning of the album with a slower tempo and simpler composition, again making them less recognizable.
Overall, this album does feature some unique tracks, though does not stand out enough to receive a great rating. I would listen to a couple of the tracks again individually, but would not recommend any of them to a friend.
Best songs: Follow the Water, The Bitter Suite
Best lyrics: “Because we only want a life that’s well worth living / And sleeping ain’t no kind of life at all.” — “In Your Own Time”