Iron & Wine’s Sam Beam has always been at his best when at his simplest.
His debut, The Creek Drank The Cradle, was lo-fi folk perfect for rainy days, for lying in bed and letting the music wash over you. In the 15 years since that release, no other Iron & Wine release has been so intimate. There have been plenty of solid albums and more than enough great tracks released in the intervening years, but none has presented the magic, the poetry, that was immediately apparent in Creek, and is just as immediately apparent in Beast Epic.
"Claim Your Ghost" starts the album with the sort of slow, pulsing, almost lullaby that we've come to love from Iron & Wine, and it leads right into "Thomas County Law," with some of the most outstanding lyrics on the album:
Thomas County law's got a crooked tooth
every traffic light is red when it tells the truth
the church bell isn't kidding when it cries for you
And this superb line:
There's nowhere safe to bury all the time I've killed
"Song in Stone" is romantic, features perfect backing vocals, and bouncing guitars that exude pure joy. This is not just a song about love. It is a song that captures the sound of love itself.
"About a Bruise" has an almost Paul Simon sense of playfulness, like "Cecilia," but less catchy, and with more depth.
There isn't a weak track on the album. This is Sam Beam synthesizing everything he has worked toward during his whole career, returning to his roots but with more polish—and not in an ostentatious way—this is just an artist who knows himself, knows his strengths, and has found a way to use them perfectly in a mid-career release that is destined to become one of the best of his whole oeuvre.
Beast Epic was released by Sub Pop on August 25, 2017.