Music Reviews

Iron And Wine

The Sea And The Rhythm

Sub Pop

Weird, Sam Beam is from Miami. And there’s not even the stray hint of humidity nor paralyzing sun •- instead The Sea and the Rhythm is all cold, ghostly gray twilight hours. Iron and Wine is lo-fi, mind you, but in the good way: all caught up in the flush of back porch creation, unworried about the meaningless technicalities of fidelity and perfection. Or so I opine. Yes I do. There is no percussion to speak of. Though he does double-track his own vocals just like Devendra Banhart, man do I love Devendra Banhart.

“Under The Balcony” is a gentle, loping opener – just oddly jaunty guitar and regretful banjo and the aforementioned sound of Beam singing with himself, quietly whispering invitations in both my right and left ears. It’s cloying, it’s clawing, there’s doubt and uncertainty mingled in with a growing resolve to dispense with the solitary life and dance “our last ol’ days.” Aw man that’s good. The Sea and the Rhythm presents itself to you (I’m ripping this off from a friend) like an old pal who’s slowly wasting away, thinner and more delicate each time, until finally one day you walk in and only a pile of dust greets you, and you say “hello dust,” and you’ve accidentally scattered your oldest friend to the four winds. Sad as that. Sad as languid guitar, broken slide, exhausted whispers and painful high notes can be. Which is to say, you must now cry from the body blows of loss and missed opportunity.

“The Night Descending” is as close as this record gets to “rollicking.” Beam gives himself over to his bluegrass jones, and whaddya know, he’s a good hand. Plus it’s a fucking great counterpoint to his androgynous, breathy vocals. “Jesus The Mexican Boy” is a bit more problematic – I really dig the scorched earth aesthetic of the slowly picked guitar (Saint Vitus slow) and muffled falsetto vocal, but the lyrics are a little too self-conscious and “story-story” to me, though I like the last verse about how he (the singer) ended up betraying his friend Jesus by secretly eloping with his sister. It’s really not as bad as I’m making it sound; this is a great record, and I’m splitting hairs. I was jarred, sorry.

“Someday the Waves” makes eternal amends by including a lyric about “a childish wish for snow.” Fucking swoon! Melancholic as a motherfucker, and I’m not going to make any silly references to moonshine or backwoods or hillbillys or banjos or tormented charismatics, because I spend time in West Virginia every year and I’m not interested in the patronizing paternalism that seems determined to strangle Iron And Wine in the womb. Let the boy with the fragile voice sing his life. Or somebody else’s life.

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