Sam “Iron & Wine” Beam’s lyrical image adventures have been positively growing from strength to strength since “The Creek Drank The Cradle” in 2002. Following “The Shepherds Dog” (2007), which truly captivated Sam’s musical muse through Calexico and African guitar bands, “Kiss Each Other Clean” appears to be a lot more focused, though the true inspiration is obvious to anyone who knows Sam’s work and is still as moving as any Iron & Wine album for anyone who takes the time to listen. Captivating both instrumentally and lyrically, whilst being the most pop-leaning release from Iron & Wine, Sam seems to have set out to create a perfect replica of the albums our parents would listen to in the car through the late seventies and early eighties.
The track “Walking Far From Home” opens the album with such exquisite yet repetitive imagery where Sam seems to battle the emotions through his journey, which is finally concluded with “It came like a call from the Lord” almost like a revelation. The religious theme is carried through to “Me & Lazurus”, but that is where the similarities of the two songs end, with the gentle soothing harmonies being replaced by a raw funk groove as Sam contemplates over second chances and lost opportunities. The story throughout the album is quite simple to follow and once we reach the tale of lost love which is looked back upon without anger in “Tree By The River”. The rest of the album seems to follow this suit before returning to the same melodic tones from the beginning, to only have a whirlwind return of the jazzy funk tones with the final song “Your Fake Name Is Fine With Me”.
The fact that this album is so pop-leaning does not mean Sam has faltered with the pen at all, the lyrics throughout are amazingly stunning as always, away from the instrumentation there is still a vast amount of Iron & Wine storytelling throughout, this can especially be heard through “Monkey’s Uptown” - ‘I knew you well, I know you best, A baby mouth denied the breast’ - and the leaning makes this album so much more accessible to so many listeners who just haven’t enjoyed this lyrical genius until now. Cryptic writing is Sam’s forte, but with the edge to still allow feeling to be felt throughout an entire album. With a sense of belonging and yet being so distant, whatever Iron & Wine brings us it’ll never fail to be very ‘far from home.’