Kiss Each Other Clean - Iron and Wine (2011, Warner Bros.)
This is the first opportunity I have had to sit down a listen to Iron & Wine's latest contribution to American folk. I have noticed their music gently permeating more mainstream cultural forms of both film and television recently and in my experience, new-found success can often be a cause for concern. With an act like Iron & Wine, the beauty of experiencing their music has come from the low-fidelity recordings, which have often whispered me gently to sleep or deep-daydream. As I waited for the album to teleport it's way into my life via the jet-streams of of the iTunes store, I found myself nervous and excited in equal measure. These delicate folk-stomps and lullabies need protecting from some of the ethically spurious choices that high production values often demand.
It is apparent from the first moment of Kiss Each Other Clean that the collaboration with Warner Bros has yielded significantly crisper and cleaner production and moved Sam Beam's stunning compositions into a digital age. Happily, this has not deadened the thumping heartbeat of this special band.
What is most striking about this album is the strength and power in Beam's vocal performances. The gentle whisperings of past offerings has been carefully nurtured and has clearly matured - perhaps extended tours and live performances have helped Beam to really project and allow his lyrical tapestry to be woven with more fervor and colour. Whatever the cause, this new voice has found its feet rooted firmly and confidently in the broader soundscape and vision of Kiss Each Other Clean.
The drums and bass are perhaps the most noticeably fine additions. As Your Fake Name Is Good Enough for Me ripples and funks around me it becomes clear just how much this band have grown. Perhaps it could be said that their music is lodged firmly in dust-covered record collections and owes a debt to progressive-folk-rock, but this could not ever be a criticism. It is this very truth the has always made Iron & Wine feel like an old flame returned to steal a nostalgic kiss in the middle of night. The drums and bass are so carefully tamed that they are not out-of-place here. They add depth and warmth to the music and give it room to breathe.
This album will carry you gently into the 21st Century and remind you why it was that you fell in love with this band. Every artist must grow and progress for the sake of their art, but integrity provides a conflict for talent that must be overcome if that artist is to protect its integrity. Kiss Each Other Clean represents a healthy growth for Sam Beam's labour of love. If you have loved this band, don't be afraid to buy this album. You won't be disappointed. If you have never heard Iron and Wine before, I can think of no better places to start than here. It will make discovering their back-catalogue like the joy of unearthing old treasures from your childhood. Like traveling back in time to discover something that had always been with you, even though you never knew it.
Find out more about Iron and Wine here: http://www.ironandwine.com