Much of Calexico's Garden Ruin is bland and muted. Many of its songs are slow and sonorous, but not in a good way. It isn't because of Joey Burns's small, unassuming voice, which is evocative in a heartfelt way, nor is it the band's musical abilities, which are sharp. It's the musical choices the band makes — from the soft, skittering drums and lazy violin that floats around "Bisbee Blue " like a thick fog, to the pleasantly anonymous "Lucky Dime." There aren't enough flat-out rockers like "Letter to Bowie Knife" or "Roka," which nods toward Calexico's past triumphs by creating a rich cross section of norteño and outlaw folk. For all the reportedly "punk" origins of its band members, Calexico isn't a raucously loud band, and is typically more focused on texture and subtlety than obvious, grand gestures. But Garden Ruin is too safely middle-of-the-road, even for them.

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Mosi Reeves
Contact: Mosi Reeves