Iron & Wine Ė Ghost On Ghost
Record Label: Nonesuch / 4AD
Release Date: April 16th 2013
A couple years ago, I started getting much into indie-rock/folk, and one band that really stuck out to was folk outfit Iron & Wine; something about Samuel Beamís voice and lyrics absolutely astounded and amazed me. Iíll admit, I got into the folk troubadour when 2011ís Kiss Each Other Clean came out, and that was a record that was more ďexperimentalĒ and ďexpansiveĒ than his other works. I loved that record because it had a plethora of influences and sounds, ranging from blues, jazz, pop, indie, and folk. There was a lot to take from that record, even if Beamís lyrics were just plain odd at times, and his vocals took a step back from the overall music. The same can be said here on new record Ghost On Ghost. The same things I love and dislike about this record are prevalent just as they were on Kiss Each Other Clean Ė the instrumentation is the star of the record, and Beamís vocals and lyrics have taken a back seat. The other huge problem for Kiss Each Other Clean for me was just that after awhile, the songs tended to run together. Is that Beamís fault? No, they were great as standalone songs, but as a collective, they tended to blend together. Thatís exactly how I feel about this album, but the main difference with this, is just that the experimentation and expansion is even further, and itís clear Beam is trying to deviate himself further from his lo-fi roots, making sure the production and overall music is very solid and crystal clear. And thatís great, because the production is fantastic on both records, yet thatís a criticism to some people, because itís unlike his roots, I suppose. Either way, I can appreciate an artist who wants to expand upon his craft, and thatís what Beam is all about. Donít get me wrong, his voice is great, and his lyrics are fantastic, even if they are very cryptic and odd at times. But itís the overall music that takes center stage. Not to mention, the middle of the record also loses me for a brief moment, because it all runs together. The last few tracks are memorable and fantastic, but the middle just kind of runs together a bit, which is not a terrible thing, but it doesnít help, either. Regardless, this record is one worth marveling, so without further ado, letís be ghosts, and listen to this record, shall we?
The record begins with ďCaught In the Briars,Ē and the first 30 seconds or so of the song is a really jazzy instrumental that starts it off. It definitely starts it off on a good note, and then Sam Beamís voice kicks in, and his signature croon brings it all together; his interesting and unique lyrics take the stage as well. This song is a nice intro song, because it definitely has a very jazzy feel to it, which follows a lot of the record. Itís breezy and jazzy, which is a great way to start off the record. Itís been awhile, Mr. Beam, but Iím already having good feels listening to this record. In fact, the first half of the record is great. Third track, ďJoy,Ē however, is a slight snag, just because it doesnít seem to fit with the rest of the record. Itís the shortest song on the record at only two and a half minutes, but itís got a very somber sound to it, and it just doesnít do much for me. Itís a somber little track, but it doesnít do very much, or really go anywhere. The opposite can be said for the one-two punch of fourth track ďLow Light Buddy of MineĒ and ďGrace for Saints and Ramblers.Ē The former is another bluesy/jazzy track, and itís really chilled out, but itís a very catchy song at the same time. The latter is another catchy track, but itís more indie-pop than anything else. As I mentioned earlier, this record definitely shows Beam straying much further from his lo-fi/folk roots, but thatís a good thing, frankly. Heís expanding on his sound, and this song certainly shows it a bit. This track also has the lyrics that the title of the record, Ghost On Ghost, appears in, so thatís another reason that this song is enjoyable. My favorite record on the track, however, appears in the form of seventh track ďSingers and the Endless Song.Ē This song takes everything I love about Iron & Wine (and this record in general) and just throws it all into one song. Beamís vocals are fantastic, his lyrics are awesome, the vocal melodies are insanely catchy, the overall music is really bluesy, yet poppy, everything just works.
Sadly, itís after that song where the songs just start to run together, and the record just kind of stops. It doesnít literally stop, but the next few songs just donít do much for me. They work nicely as standalone songs, and they are very cohesive on the record, but in terms of the whole record, the next few songs just fade into the background. The last two songs, on the other hand, ďNo Loversí Revolution,Ē and ďBaby Center StageĒ are fantastic and memorable; theyíre also the two longest songs on the record, both clocking in at almost six minutes a piece. The former reminds me of ďSingers and the Endless SongĒ because it has everything I love about Beam or Iron & Wine, and it just makes it even better. This is one of the faster paced songs, but it works very well. The latter, on the other hand, is an acoustic ballad, which closes out the album nicely. The opening track was very breezy, but this song is a nice little ballad, which also has a very country-esque sound to it as well. I definitely like that, even if Iím not a fan of country music. I like it, because itís something new for Beam, and Iím open for experimentation. This record really seems to begin where 2011ís Kiss Each Other Clean left off, in the sense that the songwriting has become much more diverse, and less focus is being put to Beamís lyrics and his voice overall, but rather the music itself. This record may not please fans of his earlier work, but if you loved his last few records, this record will definitely tickle your fancy.