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Garden Ruin (Quarterstick Records)


If writers received five bucks each time we employed a hyphen, then Calexico's country-jazz-surf-pop-Cumbia-rock songs could easily keep us in ballpoint pens and Guinness. Alas, there's no recompense for even the silliest of typography (represent, umlauts) — but who cares? The rest of the world falls away when the amazing Garden Ruin rushes from the speakers. Calexico's latest LP is a triumphant trip; with each track, the compass points toward new terrain. The band careens from the sunny-day folk of "Bisbee Blue" (named for the Arizona town where the album was recorded) to the Spanish-horn-driven slowburner "Roka" to the gorgeous, unapologetically political anthem "All Systems Red." In less capable hands, Garden Ruin would be a holy mess. But with Calexico founders Joey Burns and John Convertino at the helm, the stylistically disparate songs combine to make a powerfully cohesive whole. The tracks — whether buoyed by glittering guitar riffs and background ooh-oohs, sultry Spanish vocals or simple strumming — all have one thing in common: a sense of wonder, beauty and purpose. Really, the only hyphenated phrase needed to describe Garden Ruin is "extra-extra-extra great."