Iron And Wine

Morning Becomes Eclectic

Written by: TL on 10/05/2012 22:43:09

If you'd asked me about Iron And Wine just a few months back, I'd have said I'd heard about 'them' and had a rough idea of what genre 'they' belonged in. The band, which is essentially just one person, namely singer-songwriter Samuel Beam, had popped up often enough for me to have made note, but I hadn't gotten around to checking the music out yet. It's sort of weird then, that the first record I get a chance to listen to, and the first Iron And Wine record sent to Rockfreaks for review, is "Morning Becomes Eclectic"; A strictly vinyl release featuring a live recording of a radio session Beam and his touring band did for California radio station KCRW last year, in which Beam gets interviewed by the station's Music Director Jason Bentley and plays a variety of his songs with added instrumentation compared to the originals.

As for the interview parts, I'm sure they'd make the record an awful starting point for most curious-yet-casual ears, with the way they interrupt the music, but for a nerd like me, I actually enjoy getting to know Iron And Wine through the conversation as well, and there's an exchange around the middle of the record about song meanings and the lyric-centric approach to songwriting that I find particularly interesting. Bentley naturally has a trained radio voice and Beam sounds like a super friendly Ned Flanders type of guy, so its very pleasant and chill to listen to, although I doubt its going to be what fans come back to on too many repeat spins of the record.

That leaves the music then, and here on my first encounter with Iron And Wine, I'd say that his music here reminds me a lot of the experimental Americana of a band like My Morning Jacket. The Decemberists and Ryan Adams also enter the picture as comparisons, yet the songs have richer compositions by comparison, and Beam admits during one of the interview parts that he and the band - which includes a horn section and backing vocals from The Swell Season's Markëta Irglova among other things - allow themselves to 'beef things up' quite a bit for the live show. As interesting as this likely is for existing fans however, I get the feeling that it also clutters some of the songs a little, and my feeling is that quite a few of them probably sound more intense and intimate in more stripped down versions.

So then, in terms of the music Iron & Wine play during this session, it is - like I said - probably not the best place to start for a newcomer like me. It's not that it doesn't sound good, in fact it sounds very good considering it's a a live recording of a relatively big ensemble playing in a radio studio, the arrangements just feel a little excessive at times, and as a new listener its easy to get distracted by the interview parts of the release. As a 'for the fans' release however, this sounds like decent value, as you get to hear cool new versions of songs you probably already like, while also getting to pick Sam Beam's brain a little.


Download: My Lady's House, Me And Lazarus
For The Fans Of: My Morning Jacket, The Decemberists, Ryan Adams, Bon Iver

Release Date 05.12.2011

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