Music evolves over time — a musician or band will not write the same kind of music when they start playing as they will be playing a decade later, or two decades later. It’s interesting to look at bands from the past and examine their growth over time and see how they change from album to album. Many times, however, when you are living through those changes it can come as a bit of a surprise and it takes getting used to. This happened to me most recently with the new Iron & Wine album, “Kiss Each Other Clean.”
I was introduced to Iron & Wine by my brother a number of years ago but didn’t really get into them until I started to listen to acoustic guitar driven simple music like that of the early Mountain Goats releases — just a solo voice accompanying an acoustic guitar. Here, for example, is an example of Iron & Wine playing an older song called “Such Great Heights”
For a long time that was how I thought of Iron & Wine. Since Iron & Wine is essentially a one person band (being Samuel Beam) that was all that really made sense. When I put on the new album, Kiss Each Other Clean, in the office last week for the first time, I had to double check to make sure that I really was listening to the new Iron & Wine album and that it wasn’t a different album by a different band.
Instead of being one voice with one guitar, it was a sea of instruments with more than one voice. I thought perhaps this track was just a fluke — as though the first track was just an introduction and that the rest of the album would be more like the standard Iron & Wine fare to which I was used to hearing. This did not turn out to be the case. More and more songs ended up sounding like this one instead.
Interestingly enough, Beam told SPIN magazine in an interview, “It sounds like the music people heard in their parent’s car growing up… that early-to-mid-’70s FM, radio-friendly music.”
Once I got past the fact that the music seemed so radically different, I carefully listened to the lyrics and realized that underneath the different music, it was still in many ways the Iron & Wine that I knew and loved with lyrics like these from the song “Me and Lazarus.”
He’s an emancipated punk and he can dance
But he’s got a hole in the pocket of his pants
Must be a symptom of outstanding circumstances
I give much love to any musical organization that can put out lyrical compositions like this one. Track after track is roaring hot with similarly brilliant lyrics. I recommend this album if you want some soulful lyrics that come with a moving musical background.