Iron & Wine
The Sea & The Rhythm, 180G 12" Black Vinyl EP, Digital download included
It struck everyone as a little weird that Sub Pop would be the one to issue Sam Beam's hushed folk debut. From a distance, Beam's lo-fi compositions sounded like a Harry Smith field recording plucked away by Nick Drake with Crosby, Stills & Nash on backup. But close up it was all about the poetry: concrete, ambiguous, and laced with tender irony. Since Beam compares himself to J.J. Cale, and I'd even compare his lyrical style to Beck's Apollinaire-grade symbolism on Mutations, maybe it's not so weird that he's on Nirvana's label after all.
"I think I work with the visual a lot when I write," the part-time musician and full-time Miami film teacher once said. And The Creek Drank the Cradle was unabashedly concrete, studded with disarming pick-up lines like, "The water's there to warm you/ And the earth is warmer/ When you laugh," and, "Needlework and seedlings/ In the way you're walking." Its songs also sank into little moments still warm with loss-- small enough to get inside you, but general enough to fill you with an after-the-fact numbness recognizable as love. Mothers lost sons, daughters lost fathers, lovers lost love, and each song somehow contained a bit of each.
Strikingly, the singers on The Creek Drank the Cradle keep losing their religion, too: outgrowing the bonds of belief, losing their fear of the Lord, letting their mothers' bibles burn. One of them even looks back to see a long-extinct love as a kind of unrecoverable faith: "Found your rosary broken to pieces/ Every night by the bed you'd kiss the beads." Still, the crucifixion is the greatest myth of loss we have, and it's no shock that a lyricist soaked in southern allegory should adapt it for his own purposes. There's even a defiantly un-Christian ring to resurrection one-liners like, "Frozen, the ground refused to die/ And the guitar rose again." -Pitchfork