Iron & Wine - Kiss Each Other Clean
The polished '70s AM sound of Sam Beam's fourth album wasn't imposed by his new label, Warner Bros.; that deal was inked after recording was completed. Still, WB marketers should be delighted: This is readymade for teen drama cues and moody car ads. As Beam's confidence has increased, his music has become more invitingly expansive; by Kiss Each Other Clean, he's offering the polish of Steely Dan or Cat Stevens. The songs that recall vintage Iron & Wine, especially "Half Moon," unsurprisingly still work, but so do the most unexpected detours — the distorted funk of "Big Burned Hand" and the electro-jazz oddity "Me and Lazarus." Sadly, the remainder of the album either sits squarely in the middle of the road (the single "Walking Far from Home" drips with adult contemporary sugar) or swallows itself with pretension. The dreary "Godless Brother in Love" and endless "Your Fake Name Is Good Enough For Me" shoot for emotional climaxes and feel strained. Beam's skill with a stark melody is missed; should Kiss break through commercially, let's hope he doesn't abandon it entirely.