Iron And Wine: Around The Well

Iron And Wine: Around The Well

 

Iron And Wine fans who felt alienated by the fuller, cleaner sound Sam Beam tinkered with on 2007’s The Shepherd’s Dog ought to gobble up the double-disc outtakes-and-rarities collection Around The Well, which is dominated by the kind of lo-fi crackle and acoustic squeak that made The Creek Drank The Cradle and Our Endless Numbered Days into dorm-room favorites. Then again, devout Iron And Wine-heads probably have much of the material on Around The Well already. Tracks like Beam’s covers of Stereolab’s “Peng! 33” and The Postal Service’s “Such Great Heights”—as well as originals like the easygoing, nine-minute “The Trapeze Swinger”—have been spread across readily available soundtracks, singles, imports, and iTunes exclusives. Still, assembling all this ephemera in one place is instructive. Since Around The Well leans heavier on the spare, demo-y side of Iron And Wine, in some ways it exposes the limitations of that style. Any singer-guitarist who can reduce Stereolab, The Postal Service, New Order, and The Flaming Lips into an indistinguishable acoustic muddle is a musician who may have carried aesthetic purity too far. Beam succeeds best on songs like his own “Sinning Hands,” where he and a tight folk-rock combo play off each other, building a homey little musical habitat, like the setting to some early-’70s existentialist Western.

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