In Case You Didn’t Think You Could Love Iron & Wine Any More

If you’ve been reading and listening for a while, you’ll know that we’re fairly liberal with our folk definitions here at STFU. It seems that everyone is these days.

Take Justin Vernon, of Bon Iver, for example. His collaboration with Kanye West last November was not only a bold step, it was a genre-stretching one, that opened up a whole new realm for folk to slip quietly into. If you didn’t hear either of the two songs that Justin lent his falsetto croons to on Kanye’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, here’s my favourite:

It feels a little weird putting auto-tune on this site, but also I think it kind of works.

When I meet someone who’s not really aquainted with folk music, I always have need to be a little cautiously condescending when I start showing them new tunes I want them to like. It’s so easy to whack on your favourite Iron & Wine song (mine), and slowly watch them shut down and say non-commital things like, ‘Oh yeah…um…it would be nice to fall asleep to, I guess.’

It’s much better, I find, to start them off small. Put on a little Feist. Go look up some cheerful Matt Costa. If all else fails, I am yet to find anyone who doesn’t like Dan Mangan. Just ask Holly.

If you still can’t find accessible folk for your friends to like, it seems like Sam Beam (AKA Iron & Wine) is trying his best to make everything a lot easier for you.

There was a fair bit of hype in the contemporary folk world about Iron & Wine’s new album, Kiss Each Other Clean, which was released a couple weeks ago. While everyone raved in magazines and blogs, there was a certain undertone of doubt that inevitably accompanies any artist’s musical ‘rebirth‘. Beam hadn’t released a full studio album in three years, and snippets of Kiss Each Other Clean anticipated a release that was not only different but maybe, even, infused with a little bit of pop.

The p-word tends to raise the hackles of any folkist who is happiest when instruments are primarily unplugged and made of wood, and being the snob that I am, my hackles were indeed raised. When Sam said during an interview that this album would be poppier than most, my hackles were practically raising the roof.

As you would expect, when the opening snare beats and background synths rolled in at the start of the promotional single ‘Walking Far From Home’ released way back in November, I was ready to burst into tears and bury my head under my pillow like a fifteen year-old girl, kicking my feet in anguish and swearing Iron & Wine out of my life forever. Then, like all revolutionary folk seems to do, the music worked its way under my skin. The next thing I knew it was pulsing through my ventricles, zipping about my brain and ricocheting around inside my skull. Suddenly, my folk horizons had expanded even further.

Sam Beam said in an interview that he hopes people can dance to some of the songs on his new album. I’m kind of hoping this means that Lizard Lounge and Oceana will start playing his tunes on a Friday night, but somehow I doubt it’ll happen any time soon. In the meantime, though, have a listen to two of my favourite songs from the new album and see how long it takes you to fall in love with Iron & Wine all over again. If a non-folk fan happens to be listening in the background, I’ve got a feeling Sam will be able to change their minds.

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Feb 2011

5 Comments Add Yours ↓

  1. 1

    Well, I am doubtful I can be convinced (my shackles are also raising the roof; hilarious imagery) but I shall take your word for it and try…

  2. 2

    It’s good to hear it grew on you. I was listening to this at work today and just wasn’t totally sure how I felt about it. However this live session is just awesome:

  3. 3

    I’m an I&W lover, but I’m not off-put by either of these songs. I quite like them!

    I love when genres meld into each other. Purists, of course, never know what to do with it. (Led Zeppelin’s IV getting horrible reviews initially, for instance.) Rock and blues, folk and rock, folk and pop, folksy blues, gee, it doesn’t get much better in my book. I feel like the very best musicians set their roots down, then grow.

    This isn’t about folk music really, but have you seen “This Might Get Loud”? Watch it. For realsies.

  4. PHB says:

    Hmmm…not for me at the moment but I’m a slow learner. Also, appreciate that everybody has to evolve and it’s a difficult path. (Look at Dylan.)

    “Hackles” surely? Or am I being dull and pedantic?

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