Citrus Horse is an indie/alternative/jam band that straddles the Gulf of Mexico. Frontman Alex Laugalis (vocals/guitar/synths/violin) and bassist Daryl Valliant live in Mexico City. Their other two members (and producers), Matt Taylor and Brian Schimke, are based in St. Petersburg, FL. Through the magic of modern technology, they’ve passed the tracks back and forth, crafting them into their debut LP, appropriately titled, Made in Mexico.
Made in Mexico is a concept album, and should be listened to in order. It tells the story of how Laugalis’ (now ex-) girlfriend stabbed him in the kidney with a chef’s knife. Oof. As part of his recovery, Laugalis uprooted to Mexico City, and he’s poured his harrowing experience into the album. Unsurprisingly, the lyrics are a little gruesome, but they’re no more violent than say the Rolling Stones’ Undercover.
It’s a long album (sixty minutes), across just nine tracks, but the jam-band style songs don’t feel like they’re overextended. They’re not indulgent or noodle-y; the group uses varied guitar, keyboard and percussion sounds to give the music shape and direction. Laugalis throws in some “shredding” violin work as well.
As befits a concept album, the tracks connect together. Citrus Horse mixes in some sound effects to easily join the end of one track to the beginning of the next. Note this is a two-sided album: at the end of “Kidney,” these sound effects cleverly include the spoken words “time for the B-side.”
But first, the A side. “Kite” kicks off and it’s instantly engaging. The group delivers an upbeat, grooving number with an old-school soul feel. Melodic bass lines are locked in with pocket drums, colored with little keyboard and guitar fills. Next, “Tiny TV” starts with pop elements, adding some cheery handclaps and violin lines on an accessible vocal melody. The keyboards under the verse give it a bit of a ‘80s feel with drums that evoke Blondie, and guitars that made me think of The Edge. There’s much more: over the eight minutes, they vary the dynamics, instrumentation and soundscape, and the time flies. “Tiny TV” is great and my favorite track on the LP.
The next three tracks on the A side find the music turning slightly darker and heavier, in conjunction with the lyrics (and our singer getting stabbed). As Laugalis says in “Big Pump,” “I don’t think we’ll be laughing about this someday.” In “Kidney” he watches his “organs rearrange.” The music is still upbeat, but by the time we reach the tense, string-filled end of “Kidney” the vocals are understandably screaming in pain.
The B side is a little quieter and more introspective with spacier soundscapes and slower tempos. “Lawnchair” is driven by acoustic guitar with a neat raga-like violin jam on the outro. The instrumental “Run Dootsy” recalls Pink Floyd’s “Run Like Hell” with its opening guitar figure. The concept wraps up with “Open or Closed” which finds Citrus Horse playing with some electronica textures under some lyrics that are almost tongue-in-cheek.
Made in Mexico was a delightful listen. It sounds great, and the concept holds together well. The final track, the operatic “Milkman,” is a bonus track that’s a prequel to their next project. I look forward to Citrus Horse’s next release, but I’m enjoying this one in the meantime.
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