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Saturday, October 20, 2007

Iron and Wine

Iron & Wine have made great indie-sensible navel-gazing folk music for years. They sprung from that Carissa's Wierd school of breathy minimal emo-folk. But starting with their collaborative EP In the Reins (recorded with dust-noir band Calexico) they significantly amped up the production values of their arrangements, separating themselves from the pack of whispy guitar strummers. I&W started putting more confident framing around Sam Beam's urgent whisper vocals. At times (mostly just their unfortunate piano-driven forays) this formula seems forced, undercutting the gravitas of Beam's voice. But, on the whole, their sound has evolved without losing sight of their original aesthetic. With the addition of layered rhythms, intricate melodies and picking patterns, they still manage to evoke the same sublime tone of those early tracks.

Check out their newest release, Shepherd's Dog. House by the Sea incorporates some funky didgeridoo into the rhythm track. Wolves ascends into a full-scale funk jam that sounds as much like Bitches Brew as it does Iron & Wine's first records. These are two standouts, but the whole album is tremendous. I haven't listened to the lyrics enough to know if there are tracks I'll love as much as Jesus the Mexican Boy... but right now I'm blown away by the new sonic soup they've created. It's like Califone quit smoking pot and took a hit of Window Pane instead.

(One fan shook her head in disappointment at these tracks, suggesting that Iron and Wine had become a "jam band". I understand her concern... Stave If Off hates Phish as much as anyone... but it doesn't feel like Iron and Wine has sold their soul yet. These are two of the more "jammy" tracks on this record... but there are some acoustic ballads for those who can't relate to a songwriter 'less he's got a guitar in his hands.)



At 10/21/2007 03:52:00 PM, Blogger Ned said...

I have Lastfm and I think Pandora to thank for turning me on to Fire & Wine. Good stuff, Mayard!

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