Iron & Wine - Kiss Each Other Clean

Iron & Wine (aka Sam Beam) has a gift of taking elements of various genres; folk, indie, jazz, world music, and creating a sound that has always been his own. This time out he looks back to the radio-friendly sounds of 70s pop, infusing it with his masterful storytelling ripe with imagery and colourful characters. Despite its lush arrangements and beautiful melodies, Kiss Each Other Clean (his fourth full-length) is wistful, brooding and sometimes just pissed off.

'Walking Far From Home' takes the folk tradition of the itinerant wanderer and infuses a blissful pop melody. The ongoing commentary is passed without judgment and contains a rich panorama of all that is good and bad in the world: "I was walking far from home...saw a building high as heaven / but the door was so small...I saw rain clouds, little babies / and a bridge that had tumbled to the ground." There are still the rich vocal harmonies and intricate arrangements with Beam's gorgeous voice leading the way. The excellent jazz-flavoured 'Me and Lazarus' (in which Beam describes old Laz as "an emancipated punk and he can dance") is quintessential Beam lyrical brilliance.

In contrast 'Monkeys Uptown' sounds bitter and resentful: "Those monkeys uptown told you not to f*ck around." The arrangement is sparser and the insistent electric guitar and percussion adds to the song's unsettling and menacing tone. 'Rabbit Will Run' continues in the same vein. Beam's sightly distorted vocals makes the song sound haunted and frightened; there is fear and doubt bubbling under the service and only Beam's slightly standoffish delivery is keeping it in check.

There is respite however in the form of the gorgeous 'Godless Brother In Love', the piano and and harp tinging it with melancholy. Beam's superb voice is the main focus here, and he has never sounded better. Uptempo tunes like 'Big Burned Hand' with its ballsy saxophone, and album closer 'Your Fake Name Is Good' are sure to be big crowd pleasers when performed live. The latter is chock-full of the distinctive Iron & Wine vocal harmonies with added brass instruments and wailing guitars giving it a jaunty carefree air. It is as if the dynamics of all the previous songs have been coalesced into this final moment.

Iron & Wine rarely disappoints in his recorded efforts and this is no exception. Smart, beautiful and thought provoking, Kiss Each Other Clean is another winner from this consummate musician.

Overall

7

out of 10

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