To those who fear change, hear my decree: Iron & Wine no longer makes whispery minimalistic folk. Instead, Kiss Each Other Clean sits comfortably as a genre blender—part psychedelic prog-rock, experimental jam and alterna-folk. Don’t worry, it sounds awesome.
To Sam Beam faithful, this shouldn’t be surprising. We watched Beam go from the soft singing unknown on Garden State’s soundtrack to a full-fledged folk presence in early 2000’s indie rock. In 2005, Beam brought his electric guitar out for Woman King and in 2007, Beam bought a synthesizer and played with “experimental folk”. So, five years of touring, raising a family and scoring the prom scene in Twilight II: Electric Boogaloo, Beam continues to look forward and make music unlike what he’s made before.
Now, Beam is willing to use anything at a 21st century musician’s disposal: auto-tune, female backing vocals, saxophone melodies and flute solos. It’s all there. In the hands of a less competent musician, this maximalist could get tiresome; however, Beam retains the previous Iron & Wine “constants” that will probably never go away. Namely, powerful vocal melodies, a warm, lush sound and a lyric sheet obsessed with youth and nostalgia. Perhaps these elements are the core components of Beam’s “voice”—both timbre and identity.
“Your Fake Name Is Good Enough For Me” is a seven minute finale that distills fully the album it precedes. A mix of funk guitar, jazzy saxophone and falsetto melodies build into a jumble of tension; then, everything stops. An electric guitar restarts the music and Beam’s voice carries the album into a fitting final climax. It’s moments like these that should resolve any doubt about Iron & Wine’s turn away from folk and scarcity.
WPGU Music Staff Rating: W-P-G
Key Tracks: “Tree By The River”, “Walking Far From Home”, and “Your Fake Name Is Good Enough For Me”.
Recommended if you like: Bon Iver, The Decemberists and Ray LaMontagne.
W = Poor
W-P = Fair
W-P-G = Great
W-P-G-U = An instant classic!