Iron & Wine — Kiss Each Other Clean

But those who remember that the same man who wrote “The Trapeze Swinger,” “Naked as We Came” and “Love and Some Verses” is now composing international/ funky/indie/other songs will pretty much hate it.

The beautiful piano and acoustic guitar of “Godless Brother in Love” — the tune from “Kiss Each Other Clean” that most resembles cuts from high-water mark, “Our Endless Numbered Days” — is the only track that even attempts a stab at the old Iron & Wine sound. The rest of the album is comprised of busy tunes that are full of instruments, intricate arrangements and fuzz. It very ironically could call up comparisons to a more hi-fi Neutral Milk Hotel, but it’s not about what Sam Beam is that turns people off right now. It’s about what he isn’t.

That kinda sucks for him, honestly. No one likes to be pigeonholed. But by being so freakin’ good at what he started out doing, he made it hard to break out. Tunes like “Rabbit Will Run” must be a lot of fun to play and sing; decrying the fact that they’re not as gorgeous as his whispery, sad stuff is kinda mean in some regards. He wants to move on. There are jazzy notes in his soul, so “Big Burned Hand” appeared. He admires big-band arrangements; thus, “Your Fake Name is Good Enough for Me” was written.

Regardless of listener opinion, Beam sounds very at home in these songs. He does sound like a “Glad Man Singing,” as the penultimate track is titled. I just wasn’t expecting to hear congas, vibes, distorted guitars, tinkling piano and prominent bass guitar in the mix over his acoustic guitar when he became glad.

If you’re up for some good indie music, “Kiss Each Other Clean” could be right up your alley. The songs are all solid, interesting pieces with admirable arrangements. But old-school fans? Well, just check the reviews on Amazon and feel their distaste seep through the computer screen at you. —Stephen Carradini

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