Iron And Wine - 'Kiss Each Other Clean' (UK Release: 24 Jan '11)
How to follow up a really good album? There seem to be two options – either go straight back into the studio and try to make another one while you’re still hot or wait for inspiration to rebuild itself, and take a gap year or two.
So Iron And Wine chose the latter course and 'Kiss Each Other Clean' follows 2007’s quite outstanding 'The Shepherd’s Dog' at a respectable distance. In the intervening time, 'Around The Well', a double CD of B-sides and rarities was released in 2009 and it’s a pretty great collection of songs in its own right.
I guess it’s worth mentioning that Iron And Wine is the recording name of Sam Beam, a singer-songwriter whom I suppose you could compare to Elliott Smith - although I rather think he may become the Randy Newman of his generation, so look out for his music on 'Toy Story 15'.
There are some musicians who appear on both this album and the last one, but it’s really a solo project. Sam hangs out quite a bit with Calexico, their joint album 'In The Reins' is terrific, but they seem to be AWOL this time, which for me is a miss. Whether due to their absence or not, there is a lack of quirkiness on this album – which still combines different musical elements and influences, but is much more mainstream in its approach than 'The Shepherd’s Dog'.
Opening songs 'Walking Far From Home', 'Me And Lazarus' and 'Monkeys Uptown' are an encouraging start and 'Your Fake Name Is Good Enough For Me' is a personal favourite both for its title and the percussion/brass/electric guitar combination that drives it along. But there are just too many songs which lack a killer touch for this to be an equal to previous albums in my book.
There’s no doubt Sam Beam is a really good songwriter and an excellent lyricist but his best work has a musical tension which is based on angular rhythms and off-kilter melodies. This time around I find he has veered a bit too far to the middle of the road.
'Kiss Each Other Clean' was released in the UK yesterday and in the US today. Stream the album in the widget above. Purchase from amazon.co.uk or amazon.com.
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