Kiss Each Other Clean
As impressive as his past work has been, Samuel Beam (a.k.a. Iron & Wine) blows away all expectations with Kiss Each Other Clean. Previous Iron & Wine releases have explored American roots music themes in quirky, provocative ways; this time, electronica elements are applied to old-fashioned song motifs and folk instrumental colors to gorgeous effect. Beam’s clear high tenor soars to serene heights, surrounded by subtly layered background vocals. The songs shift from sunny invocations of the past (“Tree By the River”) to shadow-haunted narratives (“Rabbit Will Run”) and oblique cautionary tales (“Monkeys Uptown”). A warm spiritual glow lights up the enraptured “Walking Far from Home” and the delicately shimmering “Godless Brother In Love.” Unexpected sonic curve balls — like the funky, saxophone-accent groove of “Big Burned Hand” and the use of analog synthesizer sounds on numerous tracks — keep things pleasantly off-balance. The seven-minute “Your Fake Name Is Good Enough For Me” closes the album with jazzy wails and prophetic visions.