Recommended if you like Cat Stevens, James Taylor, Paul Simon
The music of Sam Beam, better known as the motivating force behind Iron & Wine, is known for its soft beauty and constant reinvention. Over the last decade Iron & Wine has moved from acoustic lo-fi recordings to full band pop songs. As with any musical progression, the hope is that while fidelity may increase, the heart behind the songs might remain the same.
Kiss Each Other Clean is the group’s first LP of new material since 2007’s The Shepherd’s Dog and it continues on the trend of mixing traditional folk songs with a few eccentric sounds. Overall the record has a cohesive tone that is somewhere between the experimentalism of the 1960’s and the funky feel-good vibes of the 1970’s. Case in point: “Rabbit Will Run” feels like a Cat Stevens tune layered on the keyboards of The Doors.
However, Sam Beam’s breathy vocals are the real star of this album. Just as his voice enchanted listeners on his early recordings, new songs like “Godless Brother in Love” will cause people to fall in love yet again with Iron & Wine’s harmonies. While the lyrics are also well-thought, it is their presentation that sets the tone of each tune.
Perhaps what is most refreshing about Kiss Each Other Clean is that it seldom feels self-indulgent or stuffy. This may be a modern pop record; however it has a certain timeless quality and replay value similar to classic albums such as James Taylor’s Sweet Baby James or Paul Simon’s Still Crazy After All These Years. That said, Iron & Wine successfully mixed innovation with nostalgia to create something that is uniquely relevant to current tastes while remaining appealing to older generations.