There are a lot of skilled alt-country artists out there, too many to keep track of. It is easy to hear yet another great act and even though you like them, also know that you’ll never seriously listen to them, that if you feel like alt-country you’ve already got your go-tos (likely starting with Wilco…). Calexico have been around for over twenty years, and there’s obviously a reason for that even if you haven’t heard them, but latest album The Thread That Keeps Us is so good & diverse that you really should be listening to Calexico.
The veteran act wisely hooks in even the newest of listeners on Thread with opener “End of the World With You”, just the kind of up-anthem alt-country that makes one wonder why you haven’t been into Calexico before now. Yet the band is not a one-horse pony. There is an alt-country drive on horseback in the following “Voices In the Field”, but also a cool drive with a motor (and just the right level of synths) on “Another Space”. There are so many great changes on this record – wa-wa mixed with Latin cool in “Under the Wheels”, but straight-up Spanish language & guitar in the southwestern “Flores y Tamales”; Calexico have a relaxed way on “Girl In the Forest”, and gritty procession in “Dead In the Water”.
At fifteen tracks, including three minute-plus instrumental interstitials, The Thread That Keeps Us can feel long, but that’s mostly because it goes so many places. Moreover, Calexico have the skill to go all those places, and are well worth starting to get into.