Excited about the new Calexico
album due out tomorrow? Joey Burns compiled a track by track discussion, detailing how each song came together:
01. Falling From The Sky
- (with Ben Bridwell from Band of Horses) Joey: written when landing in NewZealand as a side note as well as having read the children's book "The House in the Night" which has a similar phrasing as the chorus in this song. The song could be about not knowing where life is heading sometimes and with the first and second verses there is nostalgia and an attempt at to convey the importance of mystery and magic in our lives. Our instincts tell us to take giant leaps all the while our minds remind us to be more cautious. When we find ourselves truly alone or at our biggest challenges, it is then that we are most in tune with our true selves and the world around us, or in this case amongst the universe and stars above.
02. Bullets & Rocks
(with Sam Beam from Iron & Wine). Joey: While striving for something different in the studio set up, I was thinking a guitar driven African riff but when the vocals started taking shape and I started doubling them, I immediately thought of inviting Sam Beam of Iron & Wine. Lyrically I kept gravitating towards the theme of separation and desperation of families risking everything in order to make a better life for their children. Immigration is a global issue. I see it everywhere I go when traveling the world. This song could take place in any part of the world where there is a distinct difference of economies and that difference is growing everyday. I wanted to touch on what it might feel like personally for a family or individual going through something as difficult as this. The instrumentation is interesting here as well. Jairo Zavala from Madrid Spain brings the African electric guitar flourishes, his family lived in Africa in the 1950's and Adrian Perez plays from El Paso plays a Jalisco style harp but in a different way on this track than what you might normally hear that instrument play. I like combining these different voices and bringing them under one roof to help tell a more universal story.
John Burns: screamed palestine to me, but I think you stuck to a more local border mostly. lost in all the fear of the foreign is how brave it is for someone to leave a horrible but known station and wander through barbed wire and 'bumba' towards an unknown. Shout out to some long-forgotten Burns/Burke Irishmen.
03. When The Angels Played
- (Pieta Brown co write and backing vocals and Greg Leisz on pedal steel) I love the use of this phrase "looking for silver, looking for gold" in some way when I was in Mexico City and surrounded by so much history and culture, I kept thinking about the quote from Cortez to the native people "we suffer from an affliction of the heart that can only be cured by receiving gold." I guess I have this connection to Aztec and the sun. There is the historic symbol of the Calendar stone. Oddly enough when I went to mexico to write I was not intending to write songs like this or Falling From The Sky, but they were there buried with everything else that was trying to make its way to be heard. The song When The Angels Played is a sad song about leaving and one who never wakes up when up even when angels play. It is a beautiful picture and one that has relevance for me in some ways.
04. Tapping on the Line
- (Neko Case on backing vocals) Joey: I love the vintage old Casio white plastic synth and drum machine. Late night musings alone in the studio sometimes lead to moments like these. Hearing so much about wire tapping in the news, it was only a matter of time before a song like this showed evidence of their influence.
John Burns: The Neu rhythms speak of mechanics, and your opening line
about the machines with no rust, pointed towards science as mystery (black art)
A lot of weapon research has scientists working in a maze
Whether or not Robert Oppenheimer has regrets about the A-bomb, I do
but also Project Iceworm did somehow come to my mind during this song
and that ol' John Oliver story I shared about nuclear woopsies including
some warheads left out on the tarmac all fit in.
05. Cumbia de Donde -
(Amparo Sanchez vocals from Barcelona) This is the song I was wanting to come away with from working in Mexico. Synths, percussion, electronics etc. But it was the result of digesting and distilling time spent there and time spent loving electronica and cumbias. John Convertino couldn't make the first day of studio time in Tucson at Wavelab. So I figured Sergio, Ryan and I would record a few cumbia snippets to intersperse throughout the album as a thread or wandering theme. This tune was too much fun to leave as an instrumental snippet, it grew on us after each listening, and so we added more parts, layers, vocals with distortion. We sent it to Amparo Sanchez for grammar, and she sent back some amazing vocals herself. "Where are you from? and Where are you going?" I love the simplicity of call and response, but I kept doubting myself and so I wanted to make it deeper with more story. In the end, simplicity won, and well....a few lines of verse rather than just city names.....
to all the towns
i've never been
a thousand songs
all the paths
across a blue desert
could lead me to you
and to nowhere
06. Miles from the Sea
(Gaby Moreno on backing vocals from Los Angeles via Guatemala)
Joey: This song was a surprise. It came out of nowhere and I tried my best not to ask too many questions. It is draped in unconsciousness for me. Having grown up by the sea and now living in the desert I am often thinking about what water means to me. It is scarce and it can be fierce. It can be the gateway or can be a prison. I used to wonder if I could swim back to shore if I was out on the sea in a capsized boat. Now in this song the character is dreaming about swimming, and digging for fossils of old dinosaur bones.
John Burns: Took that first step you took to the hillside and I wandered back to the hills of our undeveloped youth (in Souhtern California) where you could find fossils as a kid and the whole idea that it was all submerged under water was a twist at 10 years. These days the idea that the sahara was submerged is even more insane and then that story about the whale bones in chile just seemed so sad to me plus the idea that someone might mistake them as cyclops bones. Here's that breadcrumb : http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-26343894