Calexico 'Seasonal Shift' Review: Rock band's first holiday album is less about Christmas and more about memories
In the true spirit of the holidays, 'Seasonal Shift' features Calexico in an assortment of guises as they reference Portuguese fado and old Mexican folk songs
Tucson, Arizona's Calexico released their first-ever holiday album, titled 'Seasonal Shift', on December 4. Less of a Christmas album and more of a cross-cultural seasonal celebration, the themes of 'Seasonal Shift' are based around that familiar end of year feeling of reflection, of ceremony and of recognition of the year gone by and the changes it brought for better and for worse. 'Seasonal Shift' contains a few cover songs, including classics by John Lennon with Yoko Ono and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, as well as a few special guests and a whole lot of goodwill. It’s heartfelt and fun and at the same time, also earnest and celebratory.
In the true spirit of the holidays, 'Seasonal Shift' features Calexico in an assortment of guises as they reference Portuguese fado and old Mexican folk songs. Apart from the stripped back two-man skeleton, the album also comprises a full party of international collaborators like Bombino, Gaby Moreno, Gisela João, Nick Urata (DeVotchKa) and Camilo Lara. The album comes across as an intersection of cultures.
The opening track, 'Hear the Bells' stands out with starry instrumentals and a floating feeling of festivity with lingering smooth trumpet solos. 'Christmas All Over Again', the second track, lights up with synchronized instruments. It's upbeat and uplifting and does justice to the original Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers creation. The next track is 'Mi Burrito Sabanero', a Spanish language song, which is followed by the rousing 'Heart of Downtown'. This retains the heart of Calexico’s well-known sound as it fuses alternative rock with classic pop elements making the track come alive.
The next song, the title track, is a feel-good number with messages of strength and goodwill. 'Nature's Domain', on the other hand, is soft in its approach with soothing vocals and twinkling acoustic guitar notes. The following song, 'Happy Xmas (War Is Over)', is a cover of John and Yoko/Plastic Ono Band's classic. A wonderful rendition, it's another holiday staple done right. 'Glory's Hope', a moving, searing piece of instrumental, is succeeded by 'Tanta Tristeza', another slow-burning Spanish song.
The tenth song on the record, 'Peace of Mind', is, like the title suggests, peaceful and the perfect holiday track. It's followed by 'Sonoran Snoball', a playful song with a happy-go-lucky feel. The final track, 'Mi Burrito Sabanero (Reprise)', is joyous and elevates the festive feel of the album right before it ends. Here, the band uses voice samples of various people to wish the listeners a happy holiday.
Speaking about the album's first single 'Hear The Bells', vocalist/guitarist Joey Burns said, "When writing songs for a seasonal album, I wanted to include some of the aspects of celebrations and traditions observed in Tucson around early November." He further added, "This song is about holding time and space for memories. Dia de Los Muertos and The All Souls Procession are two events that have influenced Southern Arizona and remembering those who've passed away. But it could also be about giving memories importance, too. The story could be about two lovers or two family members."
Calexico brings an enjoyable album, one with enough musical moments to make it a worthwhile listen, even if its overall approach is more scattered than festive.