This review is a bit late to the party, considering this album came out about a year ago, but hey, here it goes.
If you don’t know who Sam Beam, aka Iron & Wine, is, you’ve missed out on one of the biggest voices in American music in the past decade.
And one of the most magnificent beards…
Anyway, for most of his career, Beam has made wispy, haunting, rustic folk music best exemplified in this song and this cover of a Postal Service song. I say most, because around 2007, he started doing something different. Not entirely abandoning folk music, but instead fusing it with the best of American rock ala Paul Simon or Neil Young, Beam has sort of staked out his own weird Southwestern mark on the indie music landscape. There were traces of this in 2007’s album The Shephard’s Dog, but on last year’s Kiss Each Other Clean, Beam and his band really carved out their own sweet spot.
This album is also, from a business perspective, a sign of broader outreach and growth. While Iron & Wine’s previous output was released through Sub Pop Records–the big dog of indie music labels–this album was released through Warner Bros. Records, which has always been my favorite of the big labels because of the way they treat their artists. For example, see the way they treated R.E.M.
I’ve listened to this album about 4 times through now, and I love it. Every track on here is unique, yet poppy in the truest sense of the word. Not pop as in “Pandering On Present-day trends” pop music, but that essential, catchy, timeless sheen good pop music has had since the days of Elvis.
Some standout tracks?
Well, “Tree By The River” for starters. One of the first songs Beam actually wrote, this track is pure gold, a breakthrough hit from start to finish. Sorry the below video is some crappy lyrics vid, but best I could find.
Second, “Glad Man Singing.” This track showcases a lot of great spaced-out instrumentation, plus some really wonderful harmonies.
Finally, there’s “Walking Far From Home.” The album’s opener, this is a perfect one, gradually building in instrumentation and depth as Beam narrates some wayfayer’s strange journey.
Overall, this is a great album, perfect for just the kind of muggy, summer weather we’re having now. This album transports my mind to the weird desert landscapes of Arizona and New Mexico, and reminds me just what mysteries still lie in the American Southwest.