Iron &amp Wine – [Album]

Wednesday, 06 May 2009

Rare beauties emerge in Iron & Wine’s

latest release with a two-disc

collection of a rare, never-before-heard

and new-to-print collection of

unyielding goodness. From hidden

treasures of 2002’s The Creek Drank the

Cradle to soundtrack bound leftovers and

side picks from “The Shepherd’s Dog” in

2007, this sampling from the span of

Iron & Wine’s illustrious career is

nothing short of magic, especially for

those rabid fans, or however rabid

folk-fans can get, really.

The first disc is a deliberate, lower

fidelity collection of soulful

selections. The slow scratch and subtle

pop of a needle through a record’s

grooves serve as a signature undertone

throughout. Its raw, basement and

concrete wall acoustics add the perfect

flavor to the perfect set of songs.

This is especially true for a cover of

that gem of a Postal Service single from

2003. If you missed Iron & Wine’s cover

of “Such Great Heights” off the Garden

State soundtrack, it comes in for a nice

closing at the end of the first disc.

Sam Beam’s voice drags to the deepest

depths of his soul and delivers those

Ben Gibbard lyrics in a droning, all

enveloping daze. These lyrics were meant

for a softer take and while the almost

electro-pop original came first, this is

a welcome rendition to a classic.

Nearly every album in Iron & Wine’s

illustrious discography has been an

exploration of Beam’s abilities to weld

musical genres, combine forms of harmony

and instruments so that they emerge in a

new form. The undertones of that

wholesome folk jive remain but in songs

like “Serpent Charmer,” there’s that

undeniable Eastern twang—the spindly

string, the warbling wind and the

mesmerizing drum beat literally pull the

snake out of the basket and the belly

dancer to her feet. Somewhere there’s a

gypsy whose castanets are slapping

together wildly, the beads adorning her

two-piece are flailing uncontrollably

and in the parallel universe of Around

the Well, Sam Beam is performing the

soundtrack to her life. This is easily

one of the best tracks on this compilation.

With a welcome return, “Carried Home”

appears on this compilation as it did on

the “Boy With a Coin” single. The heavy

bass moves the track along and the

poignant lyrics are undeniably

representative of what we might expect

from Iron & Wine. Still, it’s

practically uncharted territory based on

what we’re probably used to. Regardless,

it’s the occupation of musical ground

that makes this track truly special.

The second disc is like the lovechild of

musician friends, upscale recording

equipment and a heightened production

value—an experience of music listen all

on its own. Still, it’s this purposeful

mode of presentation and not a

distinction of production value that

separates it from the first disc.

“Belated Promise Ring” starts off as

maybe the most upbeat,

skip-through-a-dandelion-field set of

bass licks and finger picking in the

discographic history of the band.

However, in true Iron & Wine fashion,

it’s not all pockets full of posies even

while the track evokes images of a

happier and simpler time—thimbles, tree

stumps, imitation pearls and red

balloons along the boardwalk. It’s

packed with forlorn lyrics and

frighteningly delicate nostalgia. It

wouldn’t be Iron & Wine without

something like this, though.

Around the Well credits its namesake to

lyrics from fan-favored track, “The

Trapeze Swinger” and includes some

amazing covers alongside these garage

recordings and unheard soundtrack bites.

We’re graced with a much less synthy but

still poppy cover of New Order’s “Love

Vigilantes” and a way mellow and

thoughtful version of The Flaming Lips’

“Waitin’ for a Superman.”

It doesn’t stop here and things get even

better than a two-disc compilation of

wonderment. To celebrate the release of

“Around the Well,” Iron & Wine might be

gracing five cities to perform a good

ten shows in rather close quarters. To

up the ante on how awesome this news

already is, each show will be entirely

different from the next since the set

list decision making will be turned over

to those rabid folk fans.

Here’s to more of that sweet and tender

finger picking goodness, soft claps in

the foreground to carrying beats and

those just-like-honey vocals from Sam

Beam in 2010. Iron & Wine have

reportedly started to work on the follow

up to The Shepherd’s Dog and by spring

of next year, we might just have a flood

of new material to get all folksy over.

Until then we have our tasty rarities,

new-spun covers, flipped out b-sides and

some intimate shows to keep us mostly

satiated – for now.

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