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Calexico, ‘Garden Ruin’ (Quarter Stick)

That we don’t live in Shangri-La should come at no surprise. Still, Calexico won’t let you forget it. With Garden Ruin, this Tuscon-based twosome celebrate their decade-long partnership by penning portraits of despondent wastelands that, as the album title suggests, hint at a lost idyll. Singer Joey Burns’ landscapes are suggestive of once lush vistas from whose grace we fell. “Sleeping in the valley, valley of ill fortune / walking ‘cross the river, river of delusion,” Burns laments on “Roka (Danza de la muerte)” before describing some fatal dance that the rest of the album posits is led by our despotic leadership. And while once this dance may have been tailored for a hoedown, Calexico have abandoned much of the jazzy, mariachi-infused Americana pulses that characterized their former sound. After recent successful collabos with Iron & Wine and Neko Case, the band’s alt-twang arsenal now includes flickers of sleepy Tijuana brass and sluggishly tumbleweeding strings. How comforting to know that our dance with death is a slow one.