Friday, January 21, 2011

Kiss Each Other Clean, Iron & Wine (2011)

Kiss Each Other Clean marks Iron & Wine's 3rd full length release since the success of 2004's Our Endless Numbered Days. I was in my final year of college when Our Endless Numbered Days was released. I was at the point in my music interests that fell between the indie music I preferred and the the folk music of my past. Iron & Wine was the perfect hybrid. The music was mostly mellow folk and the lyrics fit into a very contemporary world. A hippie's view of love and nature. I was smitten. To this day I still find tracks on the album to be flawless. Sadly, Iron & Wine never matched this album. A year after Our Endless Numbered Days, the EP Woman King was released. The title track from the album is one of Iron & Wine's greatest songs, but that seemed to be the last of anything to get excited about from Iron & Wine.

Yet, I still found myself anticipating the release of Kiss Each Other Clean. And, I'm not going to lie, I kind of think the album title is disgusting. I can understand the loving nature of the title, but then I just start to think too much into the title. And I kind of gag. But, this really has nothing to do with the album review.

The first two tracks start out a bit disappointing. The opener, 'Walking Far From Home', is alright. It's a little bit distorted. A little bit bland. The second track, 'Me and Lazarus', just isn't interesting. These songs want to be Iron & Wine songs with a more upbeat sound. In fact, it sounds like Samuel Beam is trying to create an album that sounds dated. Although, I'm not sure how far back he's trying to date himself. 80s? 90s? If you want a new album with a perfect throwback to sounds of the past, check out Destroyer's Kaputt (review coming soon).

The only successful old school throwback is on the albums third track, 'Tree By the River.' The song starts out a little lame. A chorus of high pitched 'la' (or something similar). But, quickly the song picks up. Before I knew it, I thought I had turned on a Carly Simon album. It isn't spot on Carly Simon, but there is enough present to remind me of her. At first, I thought maybe one of Joni Mitchell's 1980's songs, but realized it was Ms. Simon. Even Beams voice comes close to Simon's. 'Tree By the River' is the albums second best song.

The albums greatest song, and easily added to the list of my favorite Iron & Wine tracks, is 'Rabbit Will Run.' It has the fast paced vocals and the bouncing music of 'Woman King.' Maybe it isn't fair to love a track because it reminds me so much of another track. It is the only track on the album to stand out. Lyrically, the song paints quite interesting images. If Beam could have focused his album, I like to imagine more of the tracks could have matched this one.

'Big Burned Hand' is Iron & Wine meets Blues Traveler meets Dave Matthews Band. And I don't mean any of this in a good way. It made me wonder, when did Iron & Wine become the band for the frat guys? All those frat houses, in between hazing ceremonies, get together, share a beer, and show their soft side while drunkenly singing along to Iron & Wine? Hey, it's a thing. DMB has survived off of this crowd for years. I hope Mr. Beam can be successful in this crowd.

The closing track, 'Your Fake Name is Good Enough for Me,' is as decent a closing track as one could expect for this album. The song starts out pretty fast, but a little bit stripped down. Quickly it picks up instruments. More and more find themselves in the song. Not all of these instruments work, but I like the messy sound they all create. It is nice to see Beam move away from the cleanliness of what is expected. As the the song comes to an end, it really all feels like waves crashing together. And, then the lyric "we will become. Become a disco ball." So out of place on an Iron & Wine album. But, I love it.

Certainly not a great Iron & Wine album. But, with a few new songs to add to the Iron & Wine favorites, it serves a purpose as something new.


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