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Iron & Wine steels sound with variety

Iron & Wine (Samuel Beam) has gotten considerable acclaim for his previous releases, but if there’s one complaint to be made about his music, it’s that his songs are sleepy. Efforts have been made on his newest album, “Kiss Each Other Clean,” to quiet these complaints.

His stalwart fans won’t be disappointed, however. His adding of deeper instrumentation is a long way from “selling out.” Vocally, nothing has changed. Beam’s singing is still as gentle as on his 2008 album, “The Shepherd’s Dog.”

The saxophone stands out whenever it appears throughout the album. A subtle solo on “Me and Lazarus” livens things up without going over the top. “Your Fake Name is Good Enough for Me” demonstrates the influence of the instrument, as the track is one of the album’s most enthralling, even though it’s more than seven minutes long.

Another standout track is “Big Burned Hand.” The song features a saxophone, Hammond organ and prominent bass guitar. Aside from Beam’s vocals, the song is as funk as can be.

The most impressive and interesting instrumentation on the album is in the song “Rabbit Will Run.” The track opens with muted guitar picking and the echoing of a vibraphone, providing an interesting backdrop for Beam to sing over.

Beam has always put more emphasis on the songwriter portion of singer-songwriter, as his light vocals prove, and once again his narratives hit the spot. The only complaint I have against his vocals is when he uses obscenity. It’s less that the content is offensive than that it seems forced, as if he were trying to tell the listener that despite his gentle voice, he can still be a bad dude.

“Kiss Each Other Clean” isn’t as impressive lyrically as “The Shepherd’s Dog,” but the increase in instrumental variety should hook some new listeners.

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