Thursday, January 13, 2011

Album review - Iron and Wine 'Kiss Each Other Clean'

Iron and Wine
'Kiss Each Other Clean'

SAM Beam, better known under his performing moniker Iron and Wine, has completed something of a quiet, understated journey with this, his fourth studio album, shedding the earlier, admittedly simplistic perception of him as something of a whiskered and bearded singer-songwriter, whispering into his microphone, his folk-songs subtle and understated, and similarily lacking in ambition.
A mere glimpse at the retro, psychedilic-drenched album cover suggests from the off that Beam is going to advance the journey began on his previous record, the excellent The Shepherd’s Dog, which made many Best Of lists on its release in 2007.
He likened that album to an attempt to replicate something in the vein of Tom Waits’ Swordfishtrombones, moving from the acoustic-driven whisper of The Creek Drank the Cradle and Our Endless Numbered Days to a fuller, more complete sound, and has proclaimed this
album to be “more of a focused pop record”, his first since he signed to Warners/4AD,
leaving the Sub Pop label, home of Fleet Foxes and Postal Service and more.
It is the many layers and quirky rhythms on this album that surprise the most, notably the waves of sound on superb opener Walking Far From Home, the African influenced Monkeys
Uptown - which references the throbbing electric guitar sounds prevalent on a Tinariwen record - the steady, brooding closer Your Fake Name Is Good Enough For Me, and the more subtle, minimalist and off-centre groove of Rabbit Will Run.
The eye-opening jazz-prog-beat of Big Burned Hand is the biggest departure for Beam, who has effortlessly turned his hand at producing a much richer sound here.
The do-wap oohs and aahs of Half Moon are more of a throwback to his earlier output, as is the
softer, Bon Iver-esque Godless Brother In Love.
However, it is the fizzing melodies of Glad Man Singing that catch the ear repeatedly, the piano driven track bustling with electro-flourishes and reminiscent of AstralWeeks. Superb.
If this is the second twist on Beam’s musical journey, we can’t wait to see where the road goes next.

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