Monday, October 01, 2007

Sonics Expand, Charm Remains

Iron and Wine: The Shepherd’s Dog

What a remarkable album. Sam Beam takes new steps with each song, pulling in new instruments and new styles without losing his soul or his signature whisper. From steel guitar to jazz piano, each new addition is incorporated with aplomb, and nothing feels forced.

For fans coming to this straight from the last “album,” Our Endless Numbered Days, the changes may come as a surprise, but those who’ve heard Woman King or In the Reins, an EP collaboration with Calexico, will recognize this album as a logical follow-up to those efforts. Indeed, two members of Calexico appear here, contributing to the filling-out of a sound that is bigger and better than ever. Iron and Wine can still do introspective, soul-searing songs (like album-closer “Flightless Bird, American Mouth) better than almost anyone. Now the band can make you dance, too, on songs like “The Devil Never Sleeps.”

If that seems unlikely, consider this: So far, every time I listen to the album, I end up playing it twice. Sam Beam has discovered new worlds of sound. Won’t you explore them with him?

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