Iron & Wine - Kiss Each Other Clean

Tom Reed 20/01/2011

Rating: 4.5/5

Sam Beam's fourth album as Iron & Wine continues the expansion of sonic exploration that began on 2007's excellent LP The Shepherd's Dog. That album saw Beam add elements of reggae and psychedelia to his understated, pastoral melodies. This new record throws more influences into the Iron & Wine musical cauldron, with snatches of classic 70s radio rock, funk and electronica all complementing some of the strongest melodies Beam has put together yet.

Opener Walking Far From Home is genuinely stunning; various sonic textures shifting under Beam's endless stream of often-bleak imagery. The song defies any kind of genre-referencing, and its climax confirms the otherworldliness of the song's mood. Tree By The River is more typical in feel, built on layers of glorious harmonies and gently strummed guitar. The hook comes as instantly as the song kicks in, and will remain wedged in your head forever after hearing it.

Beam has been quoted as saying this album is “like the music people heard in their parent's car growing up… that early-to-mid-'70s FM, radio-friendly music." Tree By The River backs this statement up well, as does the lush Half Moon, which features some gorgeous female doo-wop backing vocals and an effortlessly blissful atmosphere.

But there is contrast to be found here, such as on the funky, saxophone-laden Big Burned Hand and the bizarre sound collage of Rabbit Will Run. The latter features frequent shifts of feel, with everything from birdcall samples to tribal xylophones and a jazz-influenced ending. Closer Your Fake Name Is Good Enough For Me sees the saxophones come back again, before breaking down into a mantra-like coda that gradually grows into a thrilling cacophony.

The two tracks that bookend this record are great examples of Sam Beam's songwriting at its best. Both eschew traditional structure and feel, forgoing choruses and focusing on the development of Beam's lyrical imagery. He can write a great hook, as he demonstrates elsewhere on this great record, and it's hard to think of anyone else out there capable of writing such stunningly conceived and poetic songs.

Release Date - 24th January.