Calexico

Spiritoso

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    8
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AllMusic Review by

As the healthy number of live albums in the band's discography attests, Calexico are always a solidly entertaining live act and no stranger to documenting their performances. Still, Spiritoso is special enough that the group made it a Record Store Day exclusive for its original release. Documenting German performances with the Radio Symphonieorchester Wien and Deutsches Filmorchester Babelsberg, the album boasts a well-chosen set list drawing from Algiers, their most recent album at the time, as well as 1998's The Black Light, 2003's Feast of Wire, and 2008's Carried to Dust (they even perform "Crystal Frontier," a hard-to-find track first issued on the European version of their underappreciated third album, The Hot Rail). Hearing Calexico perform songs from a large portion of their career allows their strengths to come to the fore, and Spiritoso's highlights make the most of the drama that their music has had since the beginning. Beginning with the fan-favorite medley of The Black Light's "Frontera/Trigger," the album's orchestral treatments make the most of Calexico's spaghetti Western majesty and whispery noir undercurrents. "Black Heart," which has the kind of stylishly world-weary melody made for strings and brass, is another standout, along with the other Feast of Wire cuts "Minas de Cobre" and "Quattro." The orchestral arrangements aren't as integral to "Epic," where the insistent acoustic guitars take center stage, or "Two Silver Trees," where the strings add a little more depth. Even if Spiritoso isn't quite the definitive live Calexico statement, it's still an elegant album that should please fans who enjoy the band's concert documents.

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