New Music - Iron & Wine

The Shepherd’s Dog, the new Iron & Wine album due out on Sub Pop in September, can be a thoroughly confounding listen to anyone hoping for a retreat to the simple homemade sounds of The Creek Drank The Cradle. At times as strangely beautiful as anything he’s ever done, the album often tends to bury what Sam Beam does best - those rural melodies and lyrics, the circular acoustic picking - under layers of oddball noises and strange production choices. Everything I already love about Iron & Wine is on this record, it’s just harder to find. On most songs the added sonics fit beautifully - the “Buckets Of Rain”-like “Lovesong Of The Buzzard” and the pulsating “White Tooth Man” for example. Occasionally they can be distracting, as on the unnecessary distorted vocal of the otherwise gorgeous “Carousel”, or with the overabundance of background vocals in the barroom stomp of “The Devil Never Sleeps”.

For the most part though, Beam and company have crafted a set of songs that take the Iron & Wine template and run with it. The Shepherd’s Dog is a rich, dense extension of the Woman King EP, and is heavily influenced (more in spirit than sound) by Tom Waits’ Swordfishtrombones - an album that acted as a gateway between two distinct phases of the man’s career. The first single, “Boy With A Coin”, is as rhythmic as anything Iron & Wine have recorded. The song still features the typical acoustic plucking that has characterized the band for years, but layers it under plenty of weepy, spacey slide guitar, handclaps, and a heaping portion of percussion that seems more likely played with hands than sticks. These added decorations are a welcome flourish in this case. Recognizable Iron & Wine lyrical themes (childlike confusion, absent religion, suggested violence, etc.) are illustrated beneath the swirling, hazy soundscape, the innocent youthful images backdropped against disturbing events. What else can a child do but turn the coin into a wish by tossing it out to sea?

MP3 :: Boy With A Coin
(from The Shepherd’s Dog)

“Boy With A Coin” has been released as a single backed by two exclusive non-album tracks (Kingdom Of The Animals” and “Carried Home”). It is available through Sub Pop.

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