20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
"Around the Well" is a substantial compilation of B-sides, unreleased tracks and rarities that span the entire career of Iron and Wine thus far. It is a most welcome offering for us listeners to feast upon whilst waiting for the next album proper. In fact, it's one of the best compilations I've heard in some time (up there with Elliot Smith's "New Moon", dare I say it).
Over the course of 2 CD's, we hear clearly the evolution of the Iron and Wine sound. Disc one focuses on the early, lo-fi home recordings that were built around just acoustic guitar, slide guitar and Sam Beam's breezy whisper of a voice. Disc two presents the more polished and embellished but no less beautiful material of later years.
Highlights on disc one include "Morning", with its honeyed harmonies and intricate guitar picking. "Peng!33" is a Stereolab tune that Sam Beam interprets to stunning effect, making it his own. "Hickory" is another light, airy melody that evokes Texan landscapes. "Such Great Heights", that closes the disc, is so melodically powerful and intimate that it causes me to well up with tears!
On disc two, the differences are immediately apparent, with the presence of percussion, bass and piano and even a vaguely warped synthesiser (on "Arms of a Thief").
Highlights on this disc include "Belated Promise Ring", an upbeat, jaunty, buoyant piece that features a rather fetching piano solo. "God Made the Automobile",meanwhile, is astonishing, with a killer melody and charming "ooo-whoo" backing vocals. Elsewhere, we have "Serpent Charmer", a bongo-driven barnstormer. "Love Vigilantes" is a worthy rendition of a New Order classic. "The Trapeze Swinger", the album's closing tune, lasts for an epic ten minutes and not a moment is wasted. It contains one of Sam Beam's finest vocal melodies, a catchy guitar riff and more of the addictive "oo-whoo" backing vocals that added so much to "God Made the Automobile". It's a truly glorious number to bow out on.
So, all in all, "Around the Well" is a superb compilation. Granted, there are are a few tunes that come across as slight on the first listen, but these even these lesser numbers start to cast their spell after a few spins. This album is a must-have for established fans and any lovers of intimate acoustic music or Americana in general.
Speaking for myself, I could listen to these simple, stunningly crafted melodies for eternity. I hope you feel the same way!
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 11 May 2010
Have a few Iron and Wine CD's, this one I got primarily for the 'Trapeze Swinger' the last song on the 2nd CD, which is a great song, and this is a really good version. The rest of the CD is just as good, quite mellow, but upbeat at the same time. Really glad I have added this album to my CD collection. Would recommend to all Iron and Wine fans, or those who have yet to become fans:)
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 28 June 2009
This is an excellent double cd (triple lp) by Iron & Wine of early and unreleased songs. If you like your lyrics to be strong and your music handcrafted then add this to your collection.
It is lo-fi but certainly not elevator music. Sam Beam beautifully crafts his music. As it is early pieces you go on a journey with him as he becomes more confident in his songwriting.
His other records tend to have themes around them however as this is a collection just enjoy one man, his guitar and some friends.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 4 February 2011
Often, an artist produces a few good albums, and then releases a B-sides/rarities compilation to plug the album gap, often due to a lack of new, strong material. Not so here! This absolutely brilliant compilation, essential for any Iron and Wine follower and recommended to anyone interested in subtle, lyrical music, is full of the soft, understated, aching beautiful songs that Iron and Wine has become revered for over the years.
The early tracks on the album bring back the earthy tones of Beam's brilliantly understated debut The Creek Drank The Cradle - "Dearest forsaken' is a highlight. Then, at the end of a journey from here through some of the most intimate and intelligent folk songs recently written, we have the epic, extremely poignant 'The Trapeze Singer', a ballad about lost love and nostalgic, aching memories.
Beam really shows his skill and originality in making all his songs relatively similar in form and content, yet allowing each one to stand on its own as a literary, evocative piece. This is essential stuff.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 2 August 2009
I enjoyed listening to Shepards Dog, despite most people not liking so much the experimental approach in the album, so i was all ears for the new compilation of old recordings and new sounds. Around The Well was a winner for me, i've loved listening to the old crackly sound of the voices and acoustic guitar together, hence the five star rating.
on 24 January 2014
As with all Iron & Wine albums, this is another one that is simply amazing. With 23 tracks you still dont find yourself getting bored with his beautiful voice and melodies and for me, the best tracks on the album are: The Trapeze Swinger, Belated Promise Ring, Friends they are like Jewels and Loud as Hope.