“Kiss Each Other Clean” is the first studio LP from Sam Beam (aka Iron and Wine) since 2007’s “The Shepherd’s Dog.” Like that album, this release moves away from the lo-fidelity minimalist arrangements of earlier albums that typically featured little more than whisper singing and an acoustic guitar.
The serenity and quiet beauty of those releases were what originally won fans over, so the poppiness and slick production of “Kiss Each Other Clean” may divide fans.
The biggest advantage of the new sound is the variety it provides, a break from older releases like “Our Endless Numbered Days.”
Beam explores pop with a full band of back-up vocalists, pianos and synths, electric guitar licks and saxophones that give songs like “Me and Lazarus” a pleasing jazz feel.
On “Half Moon” we also hear Beam’s clear voice soar, which is unusual in his older work but fits well with the freewheeling nature of this record. Lyrics are poetic and earnest but lack the sparse folk instrumentation to match them.
Listeners may not feel serenaded by Beam’s lyrics, but they should still appreciate his talent for vivid, fantastic imagery.
William McAuliffe may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
“Kiss Each Other Clean”
4.5/ 5 stars
Release Date: Jan. 26
Label: Capitol Records