Kiss Each Other Clean is Iron & Wine‘s fourth studio album (not counting the endless number of EP’s) which was released earlier this year. As singer-songwriter Sam Beam puts it: “It’s more of a focused pop record. It sounds like the music people heard in their parent’s car growing up…that early-to-mid-70s FM, radio-friendly music.” So what are we to expect from a change in genre after nearly a decade of recording music?
The album opens with ‘Walking Far from Home‘, an account of a guy walking far from home and what he sees and experiences, which was the first track to be released from the album. The first few seconds of the song hits you with this change in style straight away. The sound is a more synthy acoustic which at first only made me think my speakers were broken as everything else about Beam’s music stays familiar.
‘Me and Lazarus‘ then starts to express other new genres that Beam has experimented with whilst recording this album, such as straight-up jazz which is very dominant here and also with blues and African elements which start to become clearer as the album continues.
This is followed by ‘Tree by the River‘ which is a nostalgic conversation between a couple, and is personally my favourite off of the album. This is Iron & Wine stripped back to basics here; beautiful lyrics immersed by layers of stunning vocals and soft notes from a variety of instruments – “Mary Anne, do you remember, the tree by the river, when we were seventeen? The dark canyon road, I was coy in the half-moon; happy just to be with you, and you were happy for me.”
‘Monkeys Uptown‘, ‘Half Moon‘ and ‘Rabbit Will Run‘ are again very standard songs from Beam as the more bleak tracks of the album with more sullen vocals and a lower composition.
‘Godless Brother in Love‘ then follows with a very natural harmony which then somehow flows into the saxophone-gorged ‘Big Burned Hand‘ showing off Beam’s assortment of talents.
‘Glad Man Singing‘ and ‘Your Fake Name Is Good Enough for Me‘ then end the album with more contrasts of genres paired with the timelessness of Iron & Wine we hoped stayed consistent. ‘Your Fake Name Is Good Enough for Me‘ repeats its final lyrics of “Become the rising sun, We will become, become. Become the damage done, We will become, become with a selection of different words.” with a variety of different words, almost to a stage of irritation, until the album finishes.
All in all, Kiss Each Other Clean is classic Iron & Wine, presenting us with some excellent acoustic folk music that we so dearly love Beam for. The new ‘pop sound’ isn’t as hard-hitting as expected as Beam’s vocals give us that familiarity to make the minor change comforting so I cannot complain.