Plumbiferous Media

Kiss Each Other Clean - Iron & Wine

Jan 30th 2011
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Kiss Each Other Clean - Iron & WineIron & Wine
Kiss Each Other Clean
Score: 80

Kiss Each Oth­er Clean, Sam Beam’s newest album as Iron and Wine was released on the 25th. Kiss Each Oth­er Clean fol­lows the quite suc­cess­ful The Shep­herd’s Dog, although it does not quite live up to the hype pro­duced by its pre­de­ces­sor. Kiss Each Oth­er Clean, while still a good album, is sim­ply not Beam’s best, nor a tru­ly excep­tion­al album.

Sam Beam’s qui­et but pow­er­ful tones haven’t changed much since The Shep­herd’s Dog - which, giv­en Beam’s propen­si­ty for vocal excel­lence, is cer­tain­ly not a bad thing. Beam’s voice rings out through Kiss Each Oth­er Clean’s care­ful instru­men­tals, pro­vid­ing a soft but emo­tion­al edge that com­pli­ments not only the instru­men­tals but the music as a whole, work­ing per­fect­ly with the album’s typ­i­cal­ly well-writ­ten lyrics. Through Kiss Each Oth­er Clean, Beam works through a num­ber of vocal styles, most famil­iar, but with changes or refine­ments that make them sound as fresh as they did on his ear­ly work. Each is both suc­cess­ful alone and as an ele­gant dri­ving force to the sort of sto­ry told by each track - an impres­sive feat for any album.

Iron & Wine tends towards image-laden, nar­ra­tive-heavy lyrics, and Kiss Each Oth­er Clean is no excep­tion. Beam pop­u­lates his sto­ries with a num­ber of intrigu­ing images, from “Tree by the Riv­er“ ‘s rem­i­nis­cent image of the “Dark canyon wall, the call and the answer / And the mare in the pas­ture / Pitch black and bar­ing its teeth” to “Me and Lazarus“ ‘s “lib­er­at­ed los­er that can roam.” Accen­tu­at­ed with the usu­al mix of clar­i­ty and deep metaphor, Kiss Each Oth­er Clean suc­ceeds in cre­at­ing a com­plex lyri­cal presence.

Beam’s cre­ative tones are, at least at first glance, entire­ly present on Kiss Each Oth­er Clean. Tracks are filled with a range of instru­men­tals, from utter­ly sim­ple, yet entire­ly ele­gant lines to more active and intrigu­ing­ly con­vo­lut­ed har­monies. In fact, Kiss Each Oth­er Clean’s great­est strength is quite pos­si­bly the diver­si­ty each track pro­vides. And though the instru­men­tals invari­ably play the role of assis­tant to Beam’s voice, they nev­er­the­less remain memorable.

At the same time, the sec­ondary nature of the instru­men­tals is like­ly also the root of one of Kiss Each Oth­er Clean’s great­est flaws. While tracks are invari­ably unique, instru­men­tals rarely change over the length of a track, which works amaz­ing­ly well if Kiss Each Oth­er Clean is to be con­sid­ered back­ground music, but not quite as well in any oth­er cir­cum­stance. As inter­est­ing as any giv­en track can be, the high point is gen­er­al­ly the start of the track, the rest declin­ing into repet­i­tive nothingness.

Kiss Each Oth­er Clean is nei­ther a huge step for­ward for Iron & Wine, nor by any means the band’s best album. It is, how­ev­er, still a good album. Thanks pri­mar­i­ly to Sam Beam’s excel­lent vocals, as well as the album’s poet­ry-tinged sto­ries, Kiss Each Oth­er Clean comes togeth­er quite well. It may not be per­fect, but it’s cer­tain­ly worth lis­ten­ing to, espe­cial­ly for fans of Iron & Wine’s ear­li­er work.

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