Over the course of his ten-year career, Iron & Wine’s Sam Beam has become one of today’s greatest story tellers, crafting meticulous tales full of forlorn love, religious imagery and wistful dreams. It’s been more than three years since his last studio effort, The Shepherd’s Dog, which was widely praised by fans and critics alike. While Beam’s early albums were sparse, intimate solo affairs, Shepherd’s introduced layered textures and poly-rhythmic sounds that allowed his lyrics to spring to life. It’s only natural then, that Beam took this sonic collage and built upon it for his new album, Kiss Each Other Clean. The result is a brighter, more focused record that retains the idiosyncratic elements that make Iron & Wine such an engaging band.
Beam continued to mine folk, African, rock, country, and Jamaican musical traditions, but switched the focus of his studio lens to 60s and 70s pop influences for the Kiss Each Other Clean sessions. Mingling memories of his parents’ record collection and hits heard between the static of scanning the car radio on family drives for inspiration, Iron & Wine is once again pushed into new territory. Multi-part vocal arrangements reminiscent of Buckingham / Nicks era Fleetwood Mac albums and classic Motown singles permeate “Half Moon” and “Godless Brother.” Electronic synthesizer sounds percolate through “Monkeys Uptown” and “Glad Man Singing” recalling the adventures of Elton John and Stevie Wonder. The horn sections on “Big Burned Hand” and “Lazarus” match the confidence of Beam’s vocal delivery and bring an entirely new dimension to Iron & Wine. Kiss Each Other Clean’s dynamics and surprises are the latest chapter in Beam’s studio collaborations.
Producer Brian Deck returned for the Kiss Each Other Clean sessions, continuing the creative partnership that he and Beam have developed over the course of three albums. The comfort level and respect found between Deck and Beam allows for a unique working relationship where they push each other to experiment, while still letting the songs naturally evolve in the studio. The Shepherd’s touring rhythm section Matt Lux, Ben Massarella (Califone), and Chad Taylor (Chicago Underground Duo) arrived early for live recording of basic tracks at Chicago’s Engine Studios and overdubs continued for about a year. Joe Adamik (Califone), Jim Becker (Califone), Thomas Bartlett (Doveman), Stuart Bogie (Antibalas), Rob Burger and Sarah Simpson round out the other musicians brought into the sessions to complement and fully realize the songs on Kiss Each Other Clean.
Kiss Each Other Clean’s profound artistic statement continues to move the listener’s expectation forward with regard to what one can expect from Iron & Wine. Beam’s masterful storytelling and musical experimentation relies on the conflict from combining the happy and the sad, the heavy and the light, and creating an ongoing narrative between the artist and the listener. It’s the blending of all of these elements that allows Kiss Each Other Clean the versatility to paint a true portrait of life.
Kiss Each Other Clean was recently released on January 25th, 2011 on Warner Bros. Records.
For more information, visit www.ironandwine.com
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