Iron & Wine

Ghost on Ghost

Written by: DR on 12/09/2013 21:33:48

Iron & Wine, aka Sam Bean, has been around for over a decade. He started his career with an exemplary run as "The Creek Drank the Cradle", "Our Endless Numbered Days" and "The Shepherd's Dogs" solidified Bean's place as one of the best folk artists of said decade. With his more recent work, however, he has ventured outside of the folk territory, expanding his sonic scope by indulging more into the genres of jazz, rhythm and blues, and pop music. "Kiss Each Other Clean", his previous output, was a good record - not as good as his earlier material - but it showed that Bean, fully-fledged into new territory, could still produce good music.

"Ghost on Ghost", Iron & Wine's latest album and fifth overall, shows Bean seemingly still desperate to sever all ties to his former folk self. Where he was previously stripped back and quiet, now he incorporates far more colour into his songs through the utilization of richer production and far more instrumental textures. In this respect, efforts "Caught In The Briars" and "Grace For Saints And Ramblers" are the success stories of the record; they are plentiful with colours and sounds, both have a swagger as they fade in and out and the energy exuded from both is enough to intoxicate the listener. However, perhaps unsurprisingly, it's "Joy", "Baby Centre Stage", "Winter Prayers" and "New Mexico's No Breeze", the songs that are relatively more bare and slow, that show Iron & Wine's true quality. Where parts of this album feel cluttered and at times too desperate to throw as much into the mix as they can, those have a beauty in their simplicity - the likes of which seems to come so effortlessly to Bean.

Overall, "Ghost on Ghost" has the mark of quality you would expect of somebody now five albums in with the records behind him that Sam Bean has. It's undeniably assured, the compositions are always rich, the production is top notch and the songs are consistently solid. Bean has, so far, proven himself too good to release anything less. But only some of the songs - like those aforementioned - have that typical Iron & Wine excellence. "Ghost on Ghost" also has the mark of a song-writer trying to distance himself from past successes as he heads further and further down a road that leads to busier, and unfortunately weaker, songs. Ultimately, the songs less cluttered, with less going on, end up saying more.


Download: Joy, Baby Centre Stage, Winter Prayers
For The Fans of: Fleet Foxes, Great Lake Swimmers, Andrew Bird
Listen: Facebook

Release Date 16.04.2013

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