Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Iron & Wine: "Ghost On Ghost" (album review)

Until very recently I held no love for Sam Beam, aka Iron & Wine.  In fact, I held him in contempt for wasting my time with tedious, boring indie folk music.  Over the course of his last few albums however, his sound has expanded and fleshed out.  His tempo has picked up, and so has my interest in his work.

On April 16th Beam releases his latest studio record Ghost On Ghost.  I'm quite pleased that he's chosen to continue the recent trend of broadening his sound.  The results make this arguably his strongest album to date.

Beam wastes no time in showing off his new breadth of sound with the album opener "Caught In the Briars". Horns, slick percussion, and fabulous backing vocals all combine to make it a breezy number worth of Seals & Croft.

The vocals on "The Desert Babbler" strike a delicate balance between soulful and folksy.  The soul/R&B inspiration can be felt on the rich and groovy "Low Light Buddy of Mine".  "Singers and the Endless Song" has a funky gait to it.  The band even gets jazzy on "Lovers' Revolution".

Some pop even worms its way onto the record in the form of the propulsive "Grace for Saints and Ramblers".  The vocal harmonies on "Joy" are simply delicious.

"Winter Prayers" is among the tracks that will be most familiar sounding to long-time Iron & Wine fans.  The song is a methodical folk number, with a piano line that keeps it from venture too far to the dark side (i.e. boring) of contemporary indie folk music.

Kudos must go to Iron & Wine.  While other acts of his ilk (see, Iver, Bon) insist on delivering cold, lifeless, uninspired trash, Sam Beam has gone in the opposite direction, giving us a warm and comforting brand of music.

Best tracks: "Low Light Buddy Of Mine", "Caught In the Briars"

Track listing for Ghost On Ghost:
  • Caught In the Briars
  • The Desert Babbler
  • Joy
  • Low Light Buddy Of Mine
  • Grace for Saints and Ramblers
  • Grass Widows
  • Singer and the Endless Song
  • Sundown (Back In the Briars)
  • Winter Prayers
  • New Mexico's No Breeze
  • Lovers' Revolution
  • Baby Center Stage

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