Sam Beam made his name in lo-fi Americana, a bare-bones combination of hushed vocals and acoustic guitar. With each album since his debut, Iron and Wine has progressed, taking in a greater range of textures and instruments. While some fans may miss the earlier hushed and dusty incarnation, there was a richness and depth in Iron and Wine's last album, The Shepherd's Dog, and Kiss Each Other Clean takes that one step further.
This an album full of ideas, an artist full of confidence and trying new things. It's not experimental for the sake of it, it's more playful than anything else. It's also very accomplished, packed with understated melodies and layers of instrumentation. There are pretty harmonies throughout, some sung by Sarah Beam, sometimes Sam double-tracking his own vocals in falsetto. There are surprises too, the crazy toy whistle on `Rabbit Will Run', the funk basslines of `Monkeys Uptown'.
As usual, the lyrics are wonderfully poetic, cryptic, full of a home-spun mythology of angels, horses, moonlight. Songs feel lovingly crafted, and couplets jump out and suggest whole untold stories - the teenagers who are still "strangers to change" in the nostalgic `Tree by the River', or the character "barefoot in the city and your phone's ringing" on `Your Fake Name is Good Enough for Me'.
This is a lovely album that rewards repeated listens.