Jan 262011
Authors: Michael Elizabeth Sakas

Writing and recording his first album in his home studio, Sam Beam of Iron and Wine has come a long way since 2002. Moving from banjo and acoustic guitars to saxophones and synthesizers, his experimentation with sound has brought out a new side of this once simplistic man.

He took his biggest leap in 2007 with the release of “The Shepherd’s Dog,” an album with political undertones and dark musical riffs.

Iron and Wine’s fourth studio album “Kiss Each Other Clean” expands off this new style with added vocal layering and some serious funk.

“Walking Far From Home,” the opening (and arguably best) song seems to give the rest of the album a thematic backbone of exploration. Naming off vivid visions such as “I saw rain clouds, little babies/And a bridge that had tumbled to the ground. I saw sinners making music/And I dreamt of that sound, dreamt of that sound.”

His words are linked together in free association and filled with metaphorical meaning, creating beautiful imagery that appeals to the deepest human emotion: nostalgia. It’s hard to explain the impact Beam’s words can have, and their universal nature allows anyone to relate.

Keeping with his stylistic writing in “Kiss Each Other Clean,” the new jazzy feel adds to the musical interest. Strange computer bleeps, background synthesizer and vocal effects are contrasted with basic bongos, piano and small doses of saxophone.

The result is a compelling musical experience.

Like with his past albums, Beam alludes to biblical references throughout his 10 tracks. He uses it more as an influence than trying to convey a religious message, as I doubt you’d hear “He loves the flag you fold before you go/When the curtain rolls the crowd is blown away/While the lion and the lamb kept f***ing in the back road” on a Christian radio.

My favorite artist since I was 14, Iron and Wine has yet to let me down. The complexity of this new work demands extra attention and multiple listens, and each one exposes new layers of interest.

Music reviewer Michael Elizabeth Sakas can be reached at verve@collegian.com.

 Posted by at 4:35 pm

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