Iron & Wine – Kiss Each Other Clean CD review

(3 out of 5)

KISS EACH OTHER CLEAN is the Iron & Wine album that Sam Beam has been on the verge of making for some time now. Since first getting people’s attention in 2002 with his homespun, near-demo acoustic tracks, his sonic palette has expanded incrementally – glacially, even – to include more instrumentation, more intricate arrangements, and even hints of soft-spoken grandiosity. But nearly a decade after the first Iron and Wine album wowed listeners with its small-scale subtlety, Beam is definitively putting to rest the idea that he’s only capable of making quiet front-porch music. KISS EACH OTHER CLEAN is painted in broad and blunt strokes, with arrangements that occasionally run up to the line of soft-rock mushiness – the polished saxophone on “Me and Lazarus” and the earnest, woo-hoo harmonizing on “Glad Man Singing,” for example. In fact, although there are a few moments of stunning intrigue here – the dynamic and epic “Walking Far From Home,” the wah-flecked, staccato weirdness of “Rabbit Will Run” (which is great until the flute settles in for the ride) — for the most part, KISS EACH OTHER CLEAN finds Beam weighing his songs down unnecessarily. It’s telling that the album’s most boring track – the simple piano-guitar-voice storytelling of “Godless Brother In Love” – is also its most touching, for it proves that Beam hasn’t lost his core gifts, it’s just that he’s decided to bury them amid muddled and inappropriate sweeteners.

First appeared Jan. 25, 2011 at Shockhound.com.

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