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Iron & Wine: Beast Epic

by Jason Woodbury on September 06, 2017

As Iron & Wine, Sam Beam has always written about elemental things: time’s ceaseless passing, the miscommunications of lovers and death. His first records, 2002’s The Creek Drank the Cradle and 2004’s Our Endless Numbered Days, established a foundation of hushed, autumnal folk, but he’s spent much of the time since rewiring and augmenting his sound, both deconstructing it and burnishing it, instilling a new level of sophistication. His sixth album, Beast Epic, follows two collaborative records—Sing Into My Mouth with Ben Bridwell of Band of Horses and Love Letter for Fire with Jesca Hoop—and is a return to Sub Pop, Beam’s original label. Beast Epic is clearly tethered to his earliest recordings—sparse, folk-based and largely acoustic, but it displays the lessons Beam learned transmuting his Southern ballads into a hybrid of tropicalia and breezy jazz rock, as well. Opening with a whispered countdown, “Claim Your Ghost” shimmers with a confidence unheard on those early hushed bedroom recordings, but feels just as intimate. “Our music is clumsy and free,” Beam sings, over the drums and sweeping violin that accompany his rattling acoustic guitar and multi-tracked voice. Recorded with his live band and longtime collaborators, the feel is loose and balmy. Beam’s still singing about growing old (the gorgeous “Summer Clouds”), still quizzically probing how the language of faith speaks to shared brokenness (“The Truest Stars We Know”) and still wondering how numbered our days truly are (“Our Light Miles”), but he’s never sounded so comfortable. An embroidered illustration of Beam, who appears blindfolded, decorates the record cover, as if to suggest the need to navigate through instincts instead of sight. On Beast Epic, Beam finds his way.

Authors: Jason Woodbury
Artist: Iron & Wine
Album: Beast Epic
Label: Sub Pop