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Light Verse finds Iron & Wine on sparkling top form

"Light Verse"

Release date: 26 April 2024
Iron and Wine Light Verse cover
24 April 2024, 09:00 Written by Janne Oinonen

All in good time – the title of one of Light Verse’s highlights provides a suitable ethos for the first full-length offering in seven years from Iron & Wine.

Since Iron & Wine’s initial imperial run slowed down with 2013’s Ghost on Ghost, the works by Sam Beam (aka the American songwriter operating as Iron & Wine with a revolving cast of collaborators) have at times carried a subtle yet detectable whiff of diminishing returns. When the material hasn’t been totally absorbing, Beam’s tireless straining at the leash of musical restrictions (launched with superlative results on 2007’s eclectic avant-Americana classic The Shepherd’s Dog) has occasionally veered towards slightly counterproductive preemptive strikes against the risk that Iron & Wine wound up pigeonholed by the hushed acoustic delicateness of such formative works as 2004’s Our Endless Numbered Days.

Seven years from the last full Iron & Wine album (2017’s Beast Epic) and over half a decade since 2008’s Weed Garden EP, the ten tracks on Light Verse glow with the kind of rejuvenated joy and infectious creative energy that’s bound to provide ample rewards for any patient fan. It’s a record that reminds us precisely what made Beam stand out amongst hordes of sensitive yet earthy songwriter types amongst the early noughties Americana boom, without (crucially) really ever toying with reviving old tricks.

One of the four tracks to feature a 24-piece orchestra, the desperate characters who duel and gradually arrive at some level of resigned acceptance of their foibles and mistakes amidst the verses of “All in Good Time” (a duet with Fiona Apple) add up to what sounds like an instant classic, with a soaring string-soaked coda that’s seemingly just searching for a gritty cinematic doomed romance to soundtrack. At the opposite end of the opulence scale, but no less effective, the wistfully regret-laden look back at a lost love of “Taken By Surprise” ranks as one of Beam’s loveliest and warmest creations, floating along on a skeletal pulse that nods towards the low-lit grooves of the Woman King EP (2005). Another cut enriched by the orchestra, the closing “Angels Go Home” is a spectral, featherlight beauty, while the buoyant bounce of “Sweet Talk” excels in sun-kissed pop exuberance.

Quirky yet profound, playful but often deeply moving, Light Verse is a record to savour in one sitting, its ten tracks comprising a seriously impressive whole that’s considerably more potent than the sum of its unfailingly impressive individual parts.

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