Release Date: 01/25/11
Kiss Each Other Clean is a bizarre album. Not so long ago, Sam Beam's hushed whispers and disarming folk songs were an institution of the indie music world. We all beheld the magic that was contained in Iron and Wine's cover of "Such Great Heights" that was released on the Garden State soundtrack that boosted him to credible fame. Yet here on their first major label release, Iron and Wine continues that which was started on The Shepard's Dog of shedding much of the sound that they were once known for. Beam singing is now anything but hushed and his instrumentation anything but acoustic. Kiss Each Other Clean is definitely not just Iron and Wine plugged in.
But even without knowing Beam's past work, the sounds on Kiss Each Other Clean are still often hard to wrap your mind around. Beam claims that the songs are inspired from a multitude of pop genres, calling the album "music people heard in their parent's car growing up… that early-to-mid '70s FM, radio-friendly music." And as strange as it sounds, the statement is surprisingly accurate. Beam and his laundry list of contributors have crafted a lovely album full of interesting sounds and production choices to accompany his newest batch of songs. Check out the strange aural landscape on "Monkeys Uptown" that includes a drum machine, funky synths, and a xylophone or the following song "Half Moon", which references Eagles-era country rock, backed up by "du-whops" from a few female vocalists. Yes, Kiss Each Other Clean puts to use the retro-obsessed trends of culture. But it does so with an amount of artistry that transcends its use of nostalgia.
Even so, Beam is still at his best in the quieter tracks like the piano-led, "Godless Brother In Love". Here Beam delivers a heartwarming vocal melody with some folky harmonies and acoustic guitars to boot. Once you get over how ridiculous it is that the 70s vibe of the music could sound fresh, the songs really do speak for themselves. In the creative opener, "Walking Far From Home", Beam repeats a hypnotizing melody over changing backgrounds that feature some of Beam's best storytelling since Our Endless Numbered Days. When listening to the album straight through, you'll definitely have those moments where you miss the Iron and Wine of yesteryear and wonder if its even the same guy behind those gimmicky saxophone solos. Even so, Kiss Each Other Clean includes enough catchy pop songs and good songwriting to make it a successful transition onto a mainstream label and an interesting new stylistic turn for Iron and Wine.
Iron and Wine - Godless Brother In Love