Friday, February 04, 2011

Iron and Wine - Kiss Each Other Clean (Warner Brothers, 2011)

Iron & Wine, originally a pseudonym for singer songwriter Sam Beam began as a solo project for guitar and voice and Beam's spectral and haunting songs. Over the years it has grown into a full band, and this years album features a full rock 'n' roll ensemble that help flesh out the music but still never get in the way of the narrative energy of the songs. There is sort of a time warp feeling here, as if one were listening to AM radio from an1970's alternate universe where the songs were actually cool and meaningful. There is an interesting gospel element that pervades some of the music like the allegorical "Walking Far From Home" and the gently funky "Me and Lazarus." Beam's songs are like short stories set to music and it is that constructive format of his storytelling that keeps the music continuously compelling. "Monkeys Uptown" is the strongest rocking song on the set with a memorable chorus and a driving back beat that propels the song along. The concluding "Your Fake Name Is Good Enough For Me" stretches things out to Dylan-esque proportions an works very well. I thought that this was a very successful and accessible album both for fans of indie rock and those who are time locked on the classic rock station. There has been some criticism that the full band dilutes the power of Beam's lyrics, but I don't believe this. The larger ensemble suits him well and allows a larger palette for him to draw from in his increasingly daring music. Kiss Each Other Clean -

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