Iron & Wine: Around the Well
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Iron & Wine'slatest effort is a double-disc collection that attempts, at great lengths, to elucidate on the artist's personal growth and sonic expansion throughout his career. The outside of Disc One is an aerial shot of dormant farmland. In stark contrast, Disc Two has the same aerial in the midst of springtime. The contrast between the two discs is plain as day, and the overt symbolism furthers the artist's point. The first disc finds the artist in the delicate, constantly fragile soundtracking state we've become accustomed to hearing, the solo artist playing with little or no accompaniment. Side A is lonely, raw, rough around the edges and minimal featuring some safe, albeit unlikely, covers of The Flaming Lips' "Waiting for a Superman," New Order's "Love Vigilantes" and the widely spun take on Postal Service's "Such Great Heights." Easy to listen to but not particularly attention-grabbing, it adequately captures Sam Beam in the early stage of his career that many fans will surely appreciate.
The flipside of the collection presents the artist in the more polished, constantly blooming state of his career. On many occasions Beam's voice rises above the hushed whispering we've come accustomed to, and more of the tunes on Side 2 have a fuller sonic accompaniment, featuring pianos, stand-up bass, whining steel, polyrhythms and sprightlier guitar strumming. The latter half of Disc 2 takes a strange and invitingly experimental turn with the backwoods mystic "Serpent Charmer," an attention-grabbing churner that serves as the whirling dervish of the artist's career between the restrained world of The Creek Drank the Cradle and the future unknown. The stylistic meandering progresses with the melancholic, introspection of "Carried Home," a lengthy and inspired nocturnal burn followed by "The Kingdom Of The Animals," a bouncy barroom, fun time kinda thing. This slightly funkier stylistic turn is welcome and encouraging for the future artistic output of Iron and Wine. If 2007's adventurous The Shepherd's Dog was any indication, the throes of Iron and Wine fans should buckle themselves in for what is sure to be an intriguing musical journey. A proper full-length original LP is expected sometime next year.