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Monday, September 30, 2013

James Blake -- James Blake

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I can't remember any debut album in recent memory with as much pre-release hype as this one. Google the phrase "pitchfork james blake wunderkind" and look at how many links you get. I love Pitchfork so very, very much. Anyway, you'd think James Blake was releasing thirty-eight minutes of musical tones that could raise the dead. Actually, his self-titled debut is just a decent album.
James Blake is really quiet stuff. Despite his reputation as some type of electronic pop person, this album features an equal amount of Blake sitting and singing alone at a keyboard in Chris Martin piano-recital mode. Otherwise, he's making a bunch of quiet bloops and bleeps and digitally altering and layering his voice over them. When this came out, there was supposed to be some kind of "quiet revolution" going on in music that this guy was at the forefront of. I don't know if that revolution ever panned out or even existed, unless you count Justin Timberlake making fun of Bon Iver's snoozeworthy performance on SNL. With all that said, the best parts of James Blake certainly don't stem from the quiet monotony that can sometimes plague the album. They come from the moments Blake actually turns up the volume a little, as on his rumbly cover of Feist's "Limit to Your Love," the sweeping fog of "The Wilhelm Scream," or the giddy build up and seismic shift of "I Never Learnt to Share." Those are the album's most enjoyable and lasting moments, and here's to more of them.

2011 ATLAS/A&M/Polydor
1. Unluck 3:00
2. The Wilhelm Scream 4:37
3. I Never Learnt to Share 4:51
4. Lindisfarne I 2:42
5. Lindisfarne II 3:01
6. Limit to Your Love 4:36
7. Give Me My Month 1:56
8. To Care (Like You) 3:52
9. Why Don't You Call Me + 1:35
10. I Mind 3:31
11. Measurements 4:19

Friday, September 27, 2013

So Much For I

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Well, that's it for "I." Ever heard of synaesthesia? Words that start with "I" seem small and mean to me for some reason. I'm not saying I have synaethesia, just that words that start with "I" make me feel funny for some reason. They seem foreboding and nasty and cold. That's weird. "J" starting words seem really inconsequential and minor to me. That's not fair, because a lot of artists I really respect start with "J." So does "jackanape," though. Do you really want your band to start with the same letter as "jackanape?" Also, "junk" starts with "j." You know, like, "That Jackanape just kicked you in the junk!"
Man, these upcoming albums I'm reviewing have everything going against them!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Why I'm Glad How I Met Your Mother Lasted this Long, Even If the Ending Doesn't Satisfy (And I Think It Will)

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For the last few years, I have heard the same thing from How I Met Your Mother ex-fans:
"That stupid show should have ended a long time ago."
I will not deny that at points after the fourth season, the show has gone through some uneven stretches. Few shows that have run for nine seasons have not. But is this proof that this show should have not gone on this long? Nope. If HIMYM had not gone on this long, we would have missed out on the mostly excellent, penultimate eighth season. As the show begins its ninth and final season this weak, it has been placed into perfect position by this previous season, which found series scoundrel, Barney, finally settling down and getting his life in order, while Ted, the series protagonist, found himself emotionally hitting rock bottom. I found Ted's depression and loneliness to be surprisingly resonating for a half-hour sitcom. I don't think these moments from late in the season would have been so powerful, if the viewers hadn't been on this very long ride with Ted.
In the eighth season, the Ted character is essentially placed in the same position as the viewer--after all this time, all these experiences, and all these relationships, what was the point of all this? All his friends now have satisfying lives and are happy, but Ted hasn't found any of the fulfillment he has been looking for. The show fully recognizes the toll that the length of finding the titular mother has taken on Ted. If it had ignored this, I would jump on the anti-HIMYM bandwagon, but it hasn't, and in embracing this, it has created some of the show's most powerful moments. I don't think any episode has done this better than season eight's "The Time Travelers."
This episode is essentially one big feint. It presents itself as just another night of wacky hijinks at the main characters' favorite bar. As the night goes on, things get more and more ridiculous and convoluted. The show has often embraced off-kilter humor, but in "The Time Travelers," things seem to be going off the rails. In the last five minutes, the episode reveals itself like a slap in the face. Everything that is happening only exists in Ted's imagination. The majority of events in the episode actually happened five years ago. This whole time, Ted has been sitting in the bar, drinking alone. He is so lonely and lost, he has deluded himself into thinking he is having a great night with friends, when in fact his friends are all doing something else without him.
The moment Ted realizes what is actually happening is brutal. This point in the episode had already drawn tears from me. I've watched this show from the beginning, and at the time of its premiere in 2005, I was exactly where Ted is at the end of "The Time Travelers." As series-hero, Bob Saget, narrates Ted's next thoughts, the viewer's tears go from trickle to flood, as HIMYM pulls off a trick it's done better than any other show: authentically presenting an emotional experience most other shows would fail at by becoming overly sentimental. Future Ted reveals that instead of moping alone, he wishes he would have visited his friends and spent quality time with them. But even more than that, he wishes he could have gone to visit his future wife that night--it turns out she was only a few blocks away (though he admits he will meet her in only 45 days)--and spent the time with her. Ted then imagines this moment, which showcases some virtuosic acting from series star, Josh Radnor. If you Youtube search this scene further, you will find reaction videos of people watching and crying, but without eight seasons of the show behind it, the moment loses some of its power. It works so much because those of us who have watched this show for nearly a decade have experienced all of the hurt and pain and hope behind it. Bravo, show. May your ending be equally powerful.

Monday, September 23, 2013

The Isley Brothers -- Go for Your Guns

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You might have noticed from all the randomly posted youtube links that the author of this blog enjoys slow jams. This can be traced to two factors:
1. The outline of slow jam love began when all the cool kids in the back of my bus listened to R & B when I was in elementary and middle school.
2. The picture was filled during the summer of 1996, right before I started ninth grade. No one was home, so of course I was watching Howard Stern's televised radio show on the E Channel. Howard was hosting a nice young lady who was also a performance artist . The lady's song of choice was this:

A baby got made in my ear. Anyway, from that moment, nothing has been able to turn my ear quite like a sweat slow jam (my puns are misspelled and unstoppable).
I bought this Isley Brothers album for the sole reason that it includes "Voyage to Atlantis," one of the greatest slow jams of all time. Turns out the rest of the album is actually really good, too. "Voyage to Atlantis" is the only slow jam, though. "Footsteps in the Dark, Pt.1 & 2" is also pretty soulful, but doesn't reach slow-jam levels. The rest of the songs are fairly aggressive, funky rock jams. One might not associate that much rocking when they hear the name "Isley Brothers," but they sure do it well, at least on these songs. They're good enough that when I come for "Atlantis," I usually stick around for the entire 33-minute ride.
"Atlantis" is where it's at, though.

1977 T-Neck Records
1. The Pride, Pt. 1 & 2" – 5:34
2. Footsteps in the Dark, Pt. 1 & 2" – 5:07
3. Tell Me When You Need It Again, Pt. 1 & 2" – 5:03
4. Climbing Up the Ladder, Pt. 1 & 2" – 6:41
5. Voyage to Atlantis" – 4:32
6. Livin' in the Life" – 4:13
7. Go For Your Guns" – 2:15

Friday, September 20, 2013

Isis -- Wavering Radiant

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Isis further the transformative spiritual themes of their previous albums with their final work, Wavering Radiant. The band also embrace the decade that really made them possible, the 70's, more than ever. The keyboard sound might as well have arrived by time machine from 40 years ago, as well as Wavering Radiant's more relaxed pace.
Wavering Radiant truly encapsulates what was great about this band: the sound of wandering a torch-lit corridor, sometimes wading through a suffocating pile of bones, sometimes wading through a refreshing, ancient pool. The heaviness offset with an equal amount of beautiful contemplation. Every Isis record really exemplifies this feeling of an archaeological dig. You can listen to the same album a dozen times, then unearth something you've never before noticed on the 13th.
I am glad the band called it quits after Wavering Radiant, though. You can tell they've reach the end of their capabilities together here. Isis' sound on Wavering Radiant is as clearly defined as possible, and going on further would have only diluted it. Penultimate track, "20 Minutes/40 Years" is the most triumphant they could sound within the parameters of Isis, and is the best possible way they could have gone out. Final track, "Threshold of Transformation," acts as a victory lap.
Now we have five historical documents to pore over, five albums to spelunk for treasure, with new discoveries still waiting around each corner. Whether it is through the tension of their earlier work, or the more relaxed, yet equally more dynamic sound of their later work, Isis is a band for the ages.

2009 Ipecac
1. Hall of the Dead 7:39
2. Ghost Key 8:29
3. Hand of the Host 10:43
4. Wavering Radiant 1:48
5. Stone to Wake a Serpent 8:31
6. 20 Minutes / 40 Years 7:05
7. Threshold of Transformation 9:53

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Isis -- In the Absence of Truth

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In the Absence of Truth is about...who knows what it's about. The cryptic liner notes and lyrics and whatever other resources don't make much sense, but the album sounds like some sort of epic spiritual quest that ends in a "Garden of Light." The band, who merge heaviness with more gentle passages and ambiance, actually sound like they're having fun at times. In the Absence of Truth has a definite Middle-Eastern flavor stirred into it's heavy/beautiful fusion, as well (I mean, they are called "Isis"). I'll tell you why I like it, though, and why I think it is the most underrated album in Isis's rock-solid catalog:
It is extremely relaxed. That's not to say there is no tension. Though Aaron Turner sings far more than he screams throughout the album, In the Absence of Truth has its heavy moments. Check "Not In Rivers, But In Drops," which has a more adventurous flow than any of Isis' previous work: the rock avalanche drum opening, the fun lighter, exploratory passage, the heavy middle that shifts courses until the ambient final minute.

Listening to In the Absence of Truth is like exploring a pyramid. You pass through well-lit areas full of cool hieroglyphics, you move through tight, dark corridors that make you nervous, and you climb up to the top at the end and feel like you've just been enlightened (more on this archaeological aspect with the next, and final Isis review).

The band themselves look down on this album because of how loosely it was constructed, but they are missing the point--in not refining everything to death, they've exposed a free and easy side to their music that's not been previously heard. After the claustrophobic Panopticon, this is just what was needed. In the Absence of Truth, which is Isis' penultimate work, also contains more 70's prog rock guitar and keyboard textures than any previous Isis album. Thankfully, these two elements would not be dropped for their final release, but explored to a greater degree.

2006 Ipecac Recordings
1. Wrists of Kings 7:45
2. Not In Rivers, But In Drops 7:48
3. Dulcinea 7:10
4. Over Root and Thorn 8:31
5. 1,000 Shards 6:17
6. All Out of Time, All Into Space 3:04
7. Holy Tears 7:04
8. Firdous E Bareen 7:50
9. Garden of Light 9:17

Monday, September 16, 2013

God, It Feels So Good to Close My Eyes

Isis -- Panopticon

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Panopticon is the followup to Isis' breakout album, Oceanic. Isis play stretched out, nearly instrumental rock songs, with some metallic touches, and some yelled vocals. This time around, vocalist, Aaron Turner, injects a good bit of melody into his voice. To be honest, he sounds a little bit like Nick Hexum from 311, and I don't mean that as an insult. Turner's vocals work well throughout Panopticon.
A Panopticon is a prison design where all inmates are visible at all times, taking away all privacy. Adding up the lyrics found online (good luck understanding Turner) and the quotes found in the CD booklet, Panopticon is about how the Internet and modern day technology have placed every citizen into a Panopticon of sorts (particularly at the hand of the government, which explains the rather "stately" feel of some of Panopticon's riffs). With that concept in mind, this can be a very downbeat, claustrophobic album.However, given time and multiple listens, Panopticon shows itself to be a bit deeper than that.
The band employ some pretty nice chorus (rhymes with Horus?) effects on their guitars at points, and they experiment with a lot more melody and atmosphere, as well. Dare I day, there are genuine moments that are actually a bit fun, and at the least, pretty. Kind of like oases in the desert of the album. On first listen, I'd throw a seven at this, which was my original score, but time has made the heart grow fonder. The darkness, or raininess is still there(I already compared this album to a desert. A desert of rain? Does that mean the oases are actually dry? At least I'm in the right state of mind to be listening to this), but it is not all encompassing. In many ways, this is the rare album that allows you to hear what you want. Everything is visible if you listen from the right place. Or something. Whatever.
Here is the downbeat-but-beautiful instrumental, "Altered Course." Well, downbeat to me. Might be victorious to you. Who's to say? I am setting up the next review rather nicely.

On a final note, the 70's gave birth to the spooky supernaturalish prog that underlies Isis' music, and Panopticon gives a few subtle textural nods to that age. More of that to come, as well.

2004 Ipecac
1. So Did We 7:31
2. Backlit 7:43
3. In Fiction 8:58
4. Wills Dissolve 6:47
5. Syndic Calls 9:39
6. Altered Course 9:58
7. Grinning Mouths 8:27

Friday, September 13, 2013

Isis -- Oceanic: Remixes & Reinterpretations

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Now here is an interesting re-mix album. Oceanic: Remixes & Reinterpretations' contributors take just about any conceivable remix approach. Some take the ambient angle, which works pretty much any time it is employed. Others go for more complete restructurings. Some just get weird, bringing parts of the songs that were buried under the surface to the forefront. This album's greatest asset is that it manages, for the most part, to further the spirit of the work that spawned it, even when it sounds little like Oceanic. I should say, though, I don't see how anyone who doesn't have Oceanic for a point of reference could get much enjoyment from this. In that case, this would be like a really well-illustrated teacher's manual. Not much help for students who haven't read the textbook. For fans of Oceanic, though, Remixes & Reinterpretations is a worthy mind-bender, even if there are a couple MUST SKIP tracks *cough "Carry:Like I Will Love Her Forever?" cough*.

2004 Hyrdra Head Records

Disc One
1. Weight (Fennesz) 6:34
2. False Light (Carry Edit) Ayal Naor, featuring Maria Christopher 7:53
3. Hym (Thomas K├Âner) 6:19
4. The Other (James Plotkin) 9:49
5. Carry (First Version) (Tim Hecker) 4:26
6. Maritime (Teledubgnosis) 9:24
7. Maritime (Mike Patton) 3:43

Disc Two
1. The Beginning and the End (Venetian Snares) 5:05
2. Carry (Second Version) (Tim Hecker) 5:21
3. False Light (Deadverse) (Oktopus) 5:30
4. Carry: Like I Will Love Her Forever? (Fuckin Die!!!) (Speedranch, featuring Guilty Connector) 5:51
5. From: Sinking, To: Drowning (Destructo Swarmbots) 7:14
6. Hym (Justin Broadrick) 14:54

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Isis - Oceanic

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Isis suffered the unfortunate fate of being one of the few bands to sound mainly only like itself. When some critics experience such a phenomena, they attempt to label, and because the closest genre to what Isis was playing is metal, they got tagged with the rather uncreative moniker, "post-metal." Putting "post" before something is particularly lazy. What comes after post-metal, then? Post-post metal? Then what? Post-post-post metal? P4 metal? Isis' music is easier to describe than to label.
Isis forge out a signature sound on Oceanic, their breakthrough album, and don't stray too far from it. It's actually a pretty simple formula. Long, slowly developing songs. Sparse vocals, almost entirely delivered in a pained yell. The drummer enjoys playing a very drawn out "boom, boom, tap, boom, boom, boom, tap" rhythm, the boom his bass drum, the tap his trademark loosely tightened snare. This leaves lots of room for fills, of which he takes frequent advantage. The guitars are pretty heavily distorted, and usually play out pretty lengthy chord progressions. Leads aren't that active, but are mostly dirty, though at times clean to add a little atmosphere--in fact they sound like light, flickering and bright. The second guitar usually just fills out the sound of the first. The bass lines are long and lumbering, keeping in the spirit of the drums. Add a little keyboard. There really isn't that much mystery, or extreme technicality in the music being played here, despite its reputation. The magic is really in how the simple parts add up, and how frontman Aaron Turner injects some occult touches into the songs--the greatest of which stems from the band's name. There is a little Egyptian influence in the music, particularly on the uncharacteristically light instrumental, "Maritime" (which is also, fittingly, the most nautical-sounding track), but the fact that the band is called Isis colors everything about their sound.
According to Turner, and from what I can tell from the undecipherable lyrics, Oceanic tells the story of this guy who loves this woman, finds out she is in an incestuous relationship with her brother, then drowns himself in the ocean. Who cares, though? When you listen to this album, you pretty much envision whatever you want. For instance, the quite frightening second track, "The Other," reminds me of a torch-lit dock on the Nile, the sun nearly set as a small crowd frantically boards the last boat out of dodge before a night-borne supernatural evil arrives. Whoever is left is in a for a night of terror and death. In fact, the entire album has a Halloween feeling, like when you're out trick or treating, and suddenly you realize you're the last one outside, and all the lights have gone off, and a fog is rolling in. But that's just me.
Oceanic's best track, "Weight," begins with a pretty beautiful ambient intro, before developing into the more standard Isis tune. Instead of Turner's yells accompanying, though, we get some (fitting for the band name) powerful female vocals. The song builds from start to finish, adding more and more tension, or "Weight" if you will, before ending without release, which somehow works better than a catharsis would have. If there's a thing this band really pioneered, it's re-defining the meaning of the word "payoff." Oceanic itself ends with an emotionally powerful instrumental passage that doesn't quite resolve, even in its final crashes.
So there you have it. Oceanic is not the incredibly ground-breaking album it has been billed to be, but thanks to a decent amount of space and the excellent chemistry between the band's members, it is a very good one.

2002 Ipecac
1. The Beginning and the End 8:02
2. The Other 7:15
3. False Light 7:42
4. Carry 6:46
5. - 2:06
6. Maritime 3:03
7. Weight 10:46
8. From Sinking 8:24
9. Hym 9:14

Monday, September 09, 2013

Isaac Hayes -- Ultimate Isaac Hayes: Can You Dig It?

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Isaac Hayes created the coolest music that had ever been made. This singer, composer, and multi-instrumentalist put out a cover of Burt Bacharach's "Walk on By" the exact same week in history that The Beatles' released Abbey Road. Isaac Hayes' "Walk on By" is cooler than all the cool found in Abbey Road, and in fact, The Beatles' entire discography. I say this as a Beatles fan.

The guitar riff 43-seconds into the song destroys all prior notions of cool. "Walk on By" has been sampled and copied too many times to note. Without this song, some of my favorite bands, Portishead in particular, probably wouldn't exist. It rules. This Ultimate Isaac Hayes collection contains "Walk on By" and plenty of Hayes' biggest, coolest jams. Hayes also liked sentimental love songs. He pioneered the symphonic soul sound that dominates to this day (as in a bunch of strings, brass, and woodwinds, mixed with more modern instruments). That might not be my favorite kind of song, but Hayes' charisma is ridiculous, and his compositions flawless, so I still find myself enjoying them.
Ultimate Isaac Hayes does a brilliant job of mixing and piecing every side of Hayes together. The ratio of love songs is pretty equal to the...well, actually Hayes did a great job of making songs like that cool anyway. The fact that he often refers to himself in the third person as "Ike" makes it all the better. If you can make love songs cool, you probably have some serious skills.
Case in point, "I Stand Accused," where Hayes propositions an engaged woman. The song begins with a five-minute monologue. It's obvious within the first minute that Ike wants this lady to leave her man for him, but his windup (which includes his entire life story) is so excellent, the confession that finally comes with his singing is as funny as it is convincing. Of course this girl is gonna leave "John" for "Ike." "John" will probably give his blessing.

2005 Stax

Disc One
1. Theme from Shaft 3:17
2. Precious, Precious 2:43
3. Hyperbolicsyllabicsesquedalymistic 9:39
4. Ain't That Loving You (For More Reasons Than One) 4:24
5. Never Can Say Goodbye  3:38
6. By the Time I Get to Phoenix  7:07
7. Soulsville  3:48
8. Wonderful 3:41
9. Help Me Love 5:30
10. Need to Belong to Someone 5:15
11. Good Love 5:18
12. The Look of Love 3:20
13. Do Your Thing 3:20
14. For the Good Times 5:23
15. I Stand Accused 11:35

Disc Two
1. Walk on By 12:04
2. Joy, Pt. 1 4:40
3. His Eye Is on the Sparrow 4:14
4. Brand New Me 8:35
5. If Loving You Is Wrong (I Don't Want to Be Right) 4:32
6. Someone Made You for Me 4:04
7. Baby I'm-A Want You 4:40
8. Let's Stay Together 3:35
9. Theme from The Men 4:00
10. I Can't Help It (If I'm Still in Love with You) 4:25
11. Title Theme from Three Tough Guys 2:36
12. Run Fay Run 2:48
13. Chocolate Chip 3:50
14. Come Live with Me 3:26
15. Disco Connection 3:41
16. Rock Me Easy Baby, Pt. 1 3:34
17. Medley: By the Time I Get to Phoenix/I Say a Little Prayer 4:35

Sunday, September 08, 2013

When the World Ends, There Will Still Be This Beat

If it is possible for a beat to change your worldview, then this beat altered the wrinkles in my late 90's mind forever.

And for that, like a great many things, thank you Portishead. Otherwise, I would have never heard this. And for that, thank you again, Natalie Portman, for your interview in the June/July 1999 Star Wars Insider.

Friday, September 06, 2013

The Nicsperiment Is Currently Enjoying The Bridge and Broadchurch

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When I worked at the library full-time out of college, I learned two things quickly (I'm not going to use a colon here). The first is that the majority of reading in the United States of America is done by the elderly. The second is that those old fogies love mystery novels. The lonelier ones would often look for a compatriot in me. "I love mysteries," they would say. "Do you?" I had to kind of sidestep the question to not hurt any feelings. Didn't they know who I was? Why would I read mass fiction mystery novels? My favorite books were Ulysses and The Sun Also Rises. Real literature, grandpa!!! Anyway, fast-forward seven humbling years, and ironically, two of my favorite new TV shows are murder mysteries.
The first is The Bridge on FX, Wednesday nights at nine central. The Bridge is about a hunt for a serial killer, but really it is about the strange netherworld of the U.S./Mexican border, and the relationship between a socially stunted American police detective and her Mexican partner, who turns out to be the kind of guy who smashes his car to pieces with a baseball bat because he has a flat tire. I'll admit, it might not be the most even show on television, but it is well-shot, well-acted, and crazy entertaining. Also, whoever is playing Linder has the coolest voice I've ever heard.
The second is Broadchurch on BBC America, also Wednesday nights at nine central (it repeats later that night, as well).
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Outside of the beautiful cinematography and murder mystery centerings, these two shows couldn't be more different. Where The Bridge is like some kind of terrifying but thrilling drunken carnival, Broadchurch is staid and elegiac, sort of like getting slowly crushed by the most beautiful glacier in existence. It takes place in a small British seaside town where just about everyone is stricken by some deep personal pain. The performances are incredible (David Tennant is as far from Doctor Who as possible here), the aforementioned cinematography is better looking than any movie I've seen this year, and the music is ethereally heartbreaking. The other day, I saw someone on Youtube describe a song as "ethereal," spelled as "urethral." It was the top comment, and I don't think ironically. What would a "urethral" song sound like?

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Iron & Wine (with Calexico) -- In the Reins

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As a direct continuation of the previous 2005 centered review, but slightly more focused, After a spring spent enjoying Iron and Wine's debut album, I checked out Sam Beam's second release, Our Endless Numbered Days. Outside of a few tracks, that album just didn't do it for me, and as my year got really dark, then got really contemplative, then got really huge, I forgot about old Iron & Wine. Near the end of the year, flush with cash from a Katrina disaster-relief job that had me working 44 hours overtime (84 hours a week), I hit up my local music store. Who do I see there but my old friend, Iron and Wine, with a shiny new release on the front rack. Much like my year, compared to the sound of Beam's previous work, this release is relatively huge as well. Beam had teamed with Southwestern band Calexico to record seven songs he'd written. This meant, for the first time, Beam's songs had drums and multiple instruments backing them. This works greatly to Beam's advantage because I don't know if that dude will ever be able to record something as expansive sounding as EP opener, "He Lays in the Reins" again.
The song is...perfect. Beam's voice, the western instrumentation, the loping percussion, and that mariachi singer at the 1:45 mark...all brilliant. This track is a career highlight. The rest of the EP never reaches so high, but the huge sound of Calexico's multitude of instruments (horns make several welcome appearances) blended with Beam's more quiet, intimate approach leads to several magical moments. "Burn that Broken Bed" is a particular highlight, with a horn lead lending a sultry, middle of the night landscape Beam has never before occupied. Closer, "Dead Man's Will," became Tim and Billy Riggins theme song on the TV show Friday Night Lights, so you can imagine that it's pretty great. "Prison on Route 41" is perhaps the only weak link, as it just sounds like a Beam B-Side with some drums added, and contains some of his weakest lyrics to date.
Outside of that one outlier, this EP is something pretty special. In 2005, I got a pretty huge kick out of hearing Beam sound so large when I was feeling "on the precipice" myself. In 2013, this is still the last album with Iron & Wine on the spine I've purchased, but if he were to ever work with Calexico again...
But wait! Here's a ridiculously beautiful, recently re-recorded version of "He Lays in the Reins" under the Iron & Wine moniker that makes me rethink the previous sentence. If he sounds like this now...

2005 Overcoat Recordings
1. He Lays in the Reins 3:43
2. Prison on Route 41 4:10
3. History of Lovers 3:09
4. Red Dust 3:31
5. 16, Maybe Less 4:49
6. Burn That Broken Bed 5:06
7. Dead Man's Will 3:13