[sic] Magazine

Iron & Wine – Kiss Each Other Clean

From the Garden State soundtrack to Twilight much more recently, Iron & Wine ‘s Sam Beam has been on a journey. He started it wearily, his storyteller-like persona creaking and wheezing through the gate with outdoorsy, dusty, impressively beardy folk in tow. Yet now, ten years into the business, having relocated to Austin from South Carolina in the process, he sounds youthful, playful even in comparison.

Taking the upbeat, lyrical folk template from his well-received last outing The Shepherd’s Dog, and now releasing via the rejuvenated label 4AD , Kiss Each Other Clean now sees Beam give his sound a 70s MOR sheen. Bled through with a magpie’s capriciousness (check that sly marimba backbeat here and there), Beam’s journeyman quality now comes bolstered with sympathetic concessions to the in-vogue Fleetwood Mac (“Your Fake Name Is Good Enough For Me”), to the gentle piano ballad (“Godless Brother”), and perhaps even to Toto ‘s “Rosanna” as heard with the countrified smoothness of “Half Moon”.

Whilst tail-stacking the album with mature, West Coast rhythms – see the impeccably pitched “Glad Man Singing” – Beam nevertheless also takes the time to silkily glide “Rabbit Will Run” over troubled waters and introduce a murkier groove to proceedings thanks to “Big Burned Hand” and its warped sax and talk of tattoos.

Of course, the Midwestern Gayngs collective tried this same nostalgic hand last year, only with less subtlety. Their strict diet of soft-rock and Bone Thugs ‘n’ Harmony suffered, but only slightly, by their self-imposed 10CC constraints. Here, unwilling to be anything but himself no matter the medium, Beam finds himself flourishing under similar conditions, soulful sax solos and all (the one on “Your Fake Name Is Good Enough For Me” bringing to mind fellow recent 4AD signing Ariel Pink ).

At its most basic, alongside session accompaniment mostly groomed from members of Califone , handling dark matters with a confident lightness of touch, and despite an impressive catalogue to date, with Kiss Each Other Clean it feels like Beam is just beginning to find his stride.

Advised downloads: “Half Moon” and “Your Fake Name Is Good Enough For Me”.

~Kiss Each Other Clean is released January 24th 2011 on 4AD.~