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Iron & Wine: Beast Epic

Iron & Wine
Beast Epic
(Sub Pop Records)

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For the past couple of years, Sam Beam (better known as folk/Americana project Iron & Wine) has mostly been collaborating with other artists, including Band Of Horses, Jesca Hoop, and members of Wilco. Beast Epic, by comparison, is a return to a more stripped-down production style. Yet, there’s also an undeniable sincerity and fullness to the album. The vocals really grab your attention because they’re very central in the mix and the harmonies are rich. The first song, “Claim Your Ghost,” features a subtle yet effective violin and laid back drums over strong acoustic guitars.

According to Beam, the album centers itself around themes of aging and the passage of time. “Bitter Truth” is a humble ballad which alludes to making amends, and “Summer Clouds” is a dreamy recollection, perhaps of a past relationship. It manages to maintain a degree of whimsy and melancholy in equal measures with its slow, measured drums and drifting, sparse guitars.

“Call It Dreaming” is more upbeat and optimistic with a chorus that almost sounds like a spiritual of sorts: “Where our water isn’t hidden/we can burn and be forgiven/where our hands hurt from healing/we can laugh without a reason…where the time of our lives is all we have.”

The last track in particular, “Our Light Miles,” has beautiful instrumentation and soulful vocals. With the last line, “What will become of us?” and the guitars ringing out slightly at the end, it creates a mood of closure while acknowledging uncertainty.

Overall, this album is strong in its narrative and cohesive in its production. It’s also very well done on a technical level; the vocals alone are an engineering masterpiece. The layers of strings, acoustic guitar, and pedal steel still leave plenty of air in the songs. Because they chose to keep things so simple, each element really stands on its own. It’s a treasure to listen to, especially with a good pair of headphones.

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About Andy Halo

Andy Halo is a queer trans artist who moved from Brooklyn to the Bay Area in 2015, where he plays bass and keyboards in various jazz, funk, and rock projects including his own electronic music. He works in IT and has two cats named Rico Suave and Frankie Sinatra.
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