Kiss Each Other Clean Kiss Each Other Clean

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Iron & Wine Iron & WineKiss Each Other Clean

7 / 10

Iron & Wine  Kiss Each Other Clean

4AD

Sam Beam has left Sub Pop (after three albums and a compilation of unpolished songs that until now figured as his latest reference) and with the (historically) tortured label, he has also left behind his own torments. Because yes, in “Kiss Each Other Clean” the sun is shining, in that intense way the sun shines after a terrible storm (the album’s third cut is a clear example of this, “Tree by the River”, a.k.a. Sam Beam sounding like the sunny side of Andrew Bird), and the new Beam lets himself get a suntan, at the same time submerging himself in the world of experimentation that he already tried out (and with stupendous results) in the acclaimed “The Shepherd’s Dog” (2007), his last studio album.

But this time it’s different. Because Beam seems happy. He admits that this is a shamelessly pop album, which sounds, in his opinion, like the songs that he used to hear on the radio in the car with his father when he was a kid. Songs from the end of the 70’s, like those of Steely Dan and Gerry Rafferty, songs that have much more to do with the overwhelming (and at times even powerful) optimism of Jimmy Eat World than with the discouraging pop of, shall we say, the introverted Ron Sexsmith. So he talks about strangers who steal kisses and guys with everything in a suitcase in the starting song, “Walking Far from Home”, a blues (with an elegant melancholy piano) and a blurry (industrial) atmosphere; and he plays hopeful Americana in what is, on the other hand, closer to what we had understood Iron & Wine to be up til now (that is, a friend who whispers his trials and tribulations into your ear and makes you feel less alone), “Half Moon.”

Saxophones play impossible melodies (“Big Burned Hand” is the closest to jazz that Sam Beam has ever come) and from the most hidden corners (“Me and Lazarus” starts out as a bundle of percussion inputs and turns, like a sonic butterfly, into something like a song heading off towards the reggae of the future). The flutes drive you crazy (in that artefact of infinite time called “Rabbit Will Run”) and the xylophone also does its bit (in the very 70’s sing-along “Glad Man Singing” and “Monkeys Uptown”). And then there are songs that seem more like a gangster film than a song (like the very long, epic cut that closes the album, “Your Fake Name Is Good Enough for Me”, again with saxes that stick out like a knife thrust in the middle of the night, repetitive guitar riffs, and a syncopated story interrupted only by the choruses, in a first part that later evolves towards one of the more introspective, enjoyable moments of the album). And there is the usual Sam Beam, hidden in the final minutes of the album, and, although he is wearing a bit of make-up, in the seventh cut, “Godless Brother in Love”. In spite of the positive results that his unstoppable desire to experiment (present since his second album, “Our Endless Numbered Days”) have given (let’s mention that second album, “The Shepherd’s Dog,” again), it is evident that what Sam Beam knows how to do best, judging from the heights achieved by the final moments of “Kiss Each Other Clean”, is to let himself be carried away by the dark (and stormy) side of life.

Laura Fernández

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