If Calexico hadn’t thought of it first, Cordero would be onto something fiercely original. Actually, it’s not entirely fair to suggest singer-guitarist Ani Cordero has galloped off with someone else’s shtick. If her band sounds more than a little like the Tucson act that made Joey Burns and John Convertino semi-famous, that’s not by accident. The first edition of Cordero had members of Calexico and Giant Sand riding shotgun, and the spirit of those indie heavyweights still haunts the group.
En Este Momento, the singer’s fourth release, finds her working with a full-time drummer (husband Chris Verene), bassist (Eric Eble) and trumpeter (Omar Little). Although the quartet calls New York home, the eleven songs here suggest the band’s spiritual base lies somewhere south of the border. Nowhere is that more obvious than on “La Piedra”, a sung-in-Español anti-ballad mixing plaintive ranchera guitar with death-groan strings and wounded-angel vocals. Just as exotic are “Heart In Me”, in which conga-line percussion is fused with crystal-frontier trumpet flourishes, and the thunder-rumble folk of “Mama Ven A Buscarme”.
Life’s not always a fiesta for Cordero, though. The title track does dissonant indie-rock as enthusiastically as any act currently making the scene in Williamsburg, and “Don’t Let Them Destroy You” reinvents the torch song for white-belted hipsters.
If En Este Momento disappoints in any way, it’s that the songs are often one small hook away from being truly great. Still, there’s enough goodness here — check out the mesmerizingly ominous “Close Your House Down” — to suggest Cordero is on its way to becoming an underground treasure.