Before being tasked with the review of Iron & Wine’s new album, Kiss Each Other Clean, I had never heard of the singer and songwriter, whose real name is Samuel Beam.
I did not know what to expect of this new album, other than that it has already received critical acclaim. According to Beam himself, the album is “more of a focused pop record. It sounds like the music people heard in their parent’s car growing up … that early-to-mid-’70s FM, radio-friendly music.”
Beam’s description, coupled with the fact that he performed on “Conan” Monday night (a platform for many talented musicians on the cusp of stardom, in my opinion), had me excited to check this album out for myself.
After listening to all the tracks, I can safely say none stood out to me. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. What I find is that often, an album will have one or two standout songs, and the rest will be less than exceptional. Here, instead, everything is of the same quality. And consistency is certainly a virtue.
But how would I describe the album’s level of quality, exactly? Well, in one word: nondescript. The songs are not bad by any means, but not absolutely riveting either. The lyrics are not memorable and by the album’s end, every song just ends up sounding like the last.
At the same time, however, I liked it. As a whole, the album was very pleasant and calming to listen to. Iron & Wine’s music plays like the perfect elevator music for our new age. Backdrop music: That’s my conclusion as to what this music really is. Be it in an elevator, or flowing softly from your speakers as you speak to a friend, not ever fully grabbing your attention, but enjoyable to hear, Kiss Each Other Clean is perfect if you need something to fill the silence.
Of course, one can tell that a lot of talent and a lot of heart went into the album. It’s obvious that there is a lot of meaning behind the sounds and words you hear, but the real problem is that the meaning might only resonate with Beam himself. If we as listeners could understand and feel the emotions he clearly felt piercing through each track, then I’m sure we would find it all very exhilarating. But alas, we do not.
Instead, what we find here is an album that falls right in between great and bad. It’s more than passable, but less than amazing. It just is — No better, no worse.
song to download: “Glad Man Singing”
song to skip: “Your Fake Name Is Good Enough”