Iron & Wine no longer ‘Naked’

By Acacia DiCiaccio

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Many music fans often yearn for their favorite artists to reinvent themselves. Yet, musicians must deal with straddling the fragile line between reinvention and a complete disconnect from their original sound that fans have come to adore. The risk of becoming a “sell-out” is always a daunting one when a band attempts to alter their style. Iron & Wine’s new album, “Kiss Each Other Clean,” dances dangerously across this line.

The sound of “Kiss Each Other Clean” is definitely not the low-fi, ethereal tones of Iron & Wine’s previous albums. The band leaves their organic folk style behind in exchange for the synthetic sounds of electronic instruments. For those who may have been previously turned off by Iron & Wine’s style of put-you-to-sleep music, this album offers a brighter range of tempo and style.

The opening track on the album is a dud. Melodically boring, “Walking Far From Home” is definitely one to skip. Thankfully, the album only improves from there.

Between the influences of jazz, funk, electronic and even doo-wop, Iron and Wine has definitely widened their musical scope. While some tracks may be considered failures, others offer a bright, never-before-seen side to this generally static band. The experimental intro on the track “Monkeys Uptown” could be mistaken for a Radiohead song before Beam’s distinctive murmuring voice appears. Meanwhile, the saxophone in “Big Burned Hand” creates a catchy jazz tune.

However, with this new approach, the band appears to have lost focus on the human spirit lyrically with their attention turned to musicality.

The band’s mastermind, singer and guitarist Sam Beam, is renowned for his intimate lyrics illustrating the human plight. On this album, the poetry of his words is lost to the somewhat distracting use of electronic instruments. While the reinvented sound is definitely more interesting than that of past albums, the focus on the emotionality of nostalgic lyrics disappears.

In the past, even when songs had befuddled lyrics, the emotion in Beam’s vocals personified a specific mood. While some tracks on “Kiss Each Other Clean” still hold this as true, others possess lyrics that appear as placeholders to the musical experimentation.

While “Kiss Each Other Clean” entertains listeners with its fresh sound, some may argue that some of Iron & Wine’s most organic qualities are lost to the overproduction of the album.

The cover art perfectly exemplifies the dilemma of this album. Sam Beam is artfully illustrated as a figure lost amidst a river of multicolored sound waves and neon peacocks.

Acacia DiCiaccio can be reached at [email protected]