Iron & Wine: Internet Round-Up

Unless you’ve been severely depressed this week because of the hapless, luckless, and downright pathetic potential collapse of the Mets, you’re probably aware that Iron & Wine released their third full-length album on Tuesday. The Shepherd’s Dog has been receiving strong press on mp3 blogs for months, and this week saw the same from the larger review websites and publications.

I have to admit that when I first heard The Shepherd’s Dog earlier this summer I was somewhat befuddled by what I perceived as very good songs buried beneath way too much clutter. Over the past few years Sam Beam has consistently moved his band further and further from the rustic, lo-fi folk songs of Iron & Wine’s brilliant debut The Creek Drank The Cradle, so it’s not that I was expecting a return to that sound. And it certainly wasn’t that I was against Beam experimenting with and expanding his sonic repertoire. It was just that the songs sounded too busy - some really evocative lyrics and nice melodies buried beneath layers of needless bells & whistles.

Regardless of first impressions I kept returning to The Shepherd’s Dog over the following weeks and months. There were a few songs that were easy to love; the ones that were melodically familiar of earlier albums - “Resurrection Fern” and “Flightless Bird, American Mouth” especially. Soon enough though my position softened on the rest of the record. The arrangements of the dense and rhythmic “White Tooth Man” and “Pagan Angel And A Borrowed Car” began to make sense to my ears, and the radiant beauty of songs like “Innocent Bones” and “Lovesong of the Buzzard” began to emerge. While some of the tricks Beam employs don’t work (particularly the ridiculously treated vocals on “Carousel” that, for me, are still ruining one of the album’s best songs), by now I can safely say that The Shepherd’s Dog is a logical next step in Iron & Wine’s evolution as a band. It brings the band in an artistically exciting, entirely uncompromising new direction while staying true to the traditional elements that have made them one of the finest American bands of this young millennium.

If you somehow haven’t already these songs yet, here are a few from the new record:

MP3 :: Boy With A Coin
MP3 :: Innocent Bones
(from The Shepherd’s Dog. Buy here)
Check out reviews of The Shepherd’s Dog from around the internet:

All Music Guide
Lost At Sea
The New York Times
BBC Collective
Drowned In Sound
Rolling Stone
The Onion (A.V. Club)

And here are some album tracks and rarities from the past:

MP3 :: Southern Anthem
MP3 :: Lion’s Mane
(from The Creek Drank The Cradle)

MP3 :: Jesus The Mexican Boy
(from The Sea & The Rhythm EP)

MP3 :: Naked As We Came
(from Our Endless Numbered Days)

MP3 :: Woman King
(from Woman King EP)

(Buy Iron & Wine albums from Sub Pop)

MP3 :: Cold Town
MP3 :: Swans And The Swimming
MP3 :: Dead Man’s Will
MP3 :: Such Great Heights (The Postal Service cover)

And here are some live songs recorded solo from the Pabst Theatre earlier this year. Notice the huge difference between the studio versions of these songs vs. these acoustic renditions:

MP3 :: Pagan Angel And A Borrowed Car (live)
MP3 :: Lovesong Of The Buzzard (live)
MP3 :: Carousel (live)
MP3 :: The Trapeze Swinger (live)

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