Beyotchfork gives Calexico's new album an 8.1 today, but tellingly leaves it off their 'recommended' list, which should clue you into the bullshit of the 8.1 istelf. I'd give it a 6.5, max. If I was feeling generous, I'd say the 8.1 is Beyotchfreak's makeup call for having slept on Calexico's glorious early years, but I'm not even generous by nature: Bitchfrick is editorally inconsistent. Now that the stakes is high, what once passed for a set has ascended back into their pelvis.
A verdict on the new Wilderness album, Vessal States, is in: too careful. From such an auspicious debut, landmark in adventure, one would expect more exciting leaps from the soph effort. Wilderness has room in their landscape, their slow, winding fingertapped guitar, almost baroque in its precision and patience; their drummer refusing to untighten a complex, beat-filled bonfire, and then the bass remaining stately beneath; the vocals, a deeper Johnny Rotten, seemed destined to break open from influence into something new, better.
But here they only take a half step, with new production on James Johnson's singing allowing us to hear him relay his raw, Dischord Records influences, but the style tinkering only offers us an improved frasing and a scintillating opening to "Gravity Bent Light," where elongated organ notes lead to wordless howling, like somnambulent pirates threatening from somewhere in a thick fog. I bet the Wilderness has more Goth in them than one would guess.