Iron & Wine

Beast Epic

Sub Pop

Aug 25, 2017 Issue #61 - Grizzly Bear Bookmark and Share


Find It At: AMAZON

Sam Beam has stepped away from the brass. He's once again returned to the Sub Pop of his youth, and surrendered to the embered hues of his storytelling, relying less on an overlay of funk and more on an undercurrent of hushed tête-à-tête. With Beast Epic, Beam enlists the beguiling calm in his mannerhe reaches for the cooing restraint of his masterful Our Endless Numbered Days, and polishes it with the draping bougainvillea in his beard, a robust production that's decidedly stripped, at its best moments approaching the finest parts of The Shepherd's Dog.

On opener "Claim Your Ghost" Beam catches flickers of light, the symphony around him slowly breathing in and out, the drums dilly-dallying, unexpectedly summoning a rush of power-cascading cables of strings and guitar and Beam's mantra repeating "killers let go" over and over, begging yet resolute. We can touch it just as it ends. "Song in Stone" features powder-soft guitar plucks that appear to be blessings of the ghost of Nick Drake, with layered vocal harmonies that reflect Beam's recent work with Jesca Hoop.

"About a Bruise" is plucky, sassy, and gently prodding, instruments and voice-play meeting together like old friends, Beam's warmth engaging and egging on the scene. "Last Night" is a brooding crawl, the sawed bass and plucked violin meet in the middle of Beam's cautiously cycloning hum. They screech and tell stories and talk over each other. We've never been grumbled at by an Iron & Wine record; this is the moment of it. It feels pretty good.

"The Truest Stars We Know" is a "Tangerine"-tinged lullaby, the electric guitar subtly tugging behind the curtains of Beam's simple but lush songscape of bongo and electric guitar. "Right for Sky" is like coming home, Beam tapping, a wise and calm mess at the doorstep, back from the woods and with the glow of a new perspective. Those stubborn boys with big green eyes and the ones who the creek drank the cradle of-they are there-but this time reflected on from the other side of the mountain.

Beast Epic is a beauty. One would be hard-pressed to name something Beam did that wasn't. But Beast Epic handles itself, in itself and "in the leaves of the world," yet will we ever stop longing for the iron and the wine of our youth? Who knows. But this comes pretty close. (www.ironandwine.com)

Author rating: 7/10

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