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Iron & Wine Continues Indie-Folk Stardom with “Beast Epic”

Courtesy of Nikki Herceg

A leading artist in the indie-folk genre returned to the spotlight Aug. 25 with his sixth full-length studio album. Sam Beam, who commonly goes by his stage name, Iron & Wine, released “Beast Epic,” a highly anticipated record that fans have been waiting for since his last full-length album, “Ghost on Ghost” (2013).

If you’re unfamiliar with Iron & Wine, you may have heard two of their most popular songs on Spotify, “Naked As We Came” and “Flightless Bird, American Mouth,” which was featured on the “Twilight” (2008) soundtrack. Iron & Wine’s renowned sound features Beam’s hushed, calm voice layered with his acoustic guitar and drops of percussion, banjo, harmonica and piano.

Iron & Wine fans got a taste of “Beast Epic” on Beam’s birthday, July 26, with the release of “Thomas County Law.” The single opens with light taps and a few strums on Beam’s guitar — exhibiting a sound that is much more raw and unrefined than “The Shepherd’s Dog,” his 2007 album. On “The Shepherd’s Dog,” Beam covers his instruments with produced, synthesized sounds that take away from the authentic acoustic sound familiar to fans. “Thomas County Law” is an honest ode about carrying on when things aren’t picture perfect, featuring a standout lyric that illustrates Beam’s poetic lyricism: “There are castles for kings, there are birds without wings/ I could whine ‘bout it all, but I won’t.”

“Last Night” is the eighth track on “Beast Epic” in which Beam switches up the sound of the album. He sings romantic lyrics with a bouncy beat, including picks and strums of a mandolin, banjo and violin.

Another notable song, “Call It Dreaming,” sounds reminiscent of legends Simon & Garfunkel and James Taylor. Beam sings of negative aspects of life but spins an optimistic view of them, stating good comes from all evils. His line, “We can lose and call it living,” implies life is all about one’s perspective. The song features subtle percussion and Beam’s honeyed, soft voice that remains constant throughout “Beast Epic.”

Listening to the album in its entirety feels almost as if you’re listening to Beam telling a story around a campfire. The musician has simplified his instruments to their untouched, original sound on “Beast Epic.” The 11-track album touches on relationship struggles while teaching wisdom about the overall progression of life. For some of the tracks, Beam uses less words and more poetic statements which results in a greater meaning. “Beast Epic” is a noteworthy album for the indie-folk genre that may just become a regular, daily listen for fans.

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