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4.4 out of 5 stars24
4.4 out of 5 stars
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on 21 April 2005
When an album is made of songs that sound as though personal experiences and thoughts have been an influence it's always a bonus. The more you listen to the lyrics, the more you connect with the songs and this makes it all the more enjoyable.
I say all this because with "Our Endless Numbered Days" that's exactly what you get. The songs are simply, yet beautifully constructed. "She says wake up, it's no use pretending, I keep stealing, breathing her" Sam Beam almost whispers, as if giving volume to his words would take away their meaning. "One of us will spread our ashes round the yard" - a poignant reminder that no-one is here forever. The rest of the album continues in the same vein, gently nudging at your emotions as each song passes.
"Sunset Soon Forgotten", "Naked As We Came", and the exceptional "Love and Some Verses" deserve a special mention.
A wonderful album.
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on 11 May 2004
Miami Cinematography teacher Sam Beam is one man who has good reason to give up his day job. With Iron & Wine's second full length release Sam builds on on the blend of country, bluegrass and torch song melancholy he so perfectly embodied in The Creek Drank The Cradle.
'Endless Numbered Days' moves on from the achievement of 'The Creek...' musically and lyrically whilst retaining the bittersweet mood created by Beam's haunting vocals. It turns out in fact that 2003's starkly engaging 'Sea & the Rhythm EP' was a good example of what was to follow.
Although there are no sweeping changes in style this album has its surprises (the full band that kicks in at the end of the 'On Your Wings' is as shocking as it is brilliant if you're a fan of the earlier material). Just as 'Creek..' this album couples gently grooving country guitar/banjo workouts (Teeth In The Grass) with moments of aching beauty (Fever Dream, Radio War) but also covers new ground in the dark love songs (Naked As We Came, Love & Some Verses), unsettling as they are emotional.
Of course there are comparisons to Will Oldham but there is a key difference in that I&W exude a pastoral sincerity that the 'Prince' has only touched on in certain songs (e.g. 'I see a Darkness', 'Agnes Queen of Sorrow').
The most obvious dimension Iron & Wine and Oldham share is the depth of their lyrical content and I don't think it would be out of order to suggest that Johnny Cash would have approached one of Sam Beam's compositions with the same enthusiasm he applied to his cover of 'I See A Darkness'. However, if you wanted to draw parallels with other artists you'll be at it all day so rich are Beam's creations.
Iron & Wine are that accomplished and, as is fitting for a member of this generation of 'black-sheep' country music, long analytical discussions of Oedipal complexes, sexuality, Jesus, and Death are probably being performed over copies of 'Endless Numbered Days' as you read this; However in brighter times the simple addition of summer evenings, good friends and cold beer will suffice.
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VINE VOICEon 19 July 2004
What a little quiet gem this album is. Stark almost meditative offerings sung with understated warmth and whispered restraint by Sam Beam. Exquisitely plucked acoustic guitars provide the majority of the musical backing, There's the occasional banjo, pedal steel and a full band kicks in at the end of "On your Wings" and "Love and Some Verses". Some of the songs have scuffed female backing vocals but essentially that's about it. Its still a compelling listen helped by the slowly percolating melodies vivid arrangements and beautifully crafted lyrics. These are songs about love, death and err that's about it, but Nick Cave didn't go too far wrong singing about love and death all the time. On this album neither does Sam Beam.
Comparisons with Will Oldham are valid, but his work is far starker and strung out, and his voice lacks the pleasant rounded edges of Beams. There are hints of the Handsome Family, Willard Grant Conspiracy, and Elliot Smith and in some of the wonderful guitar work Nick Drake. When the songs are as stunningly written as "Naked as we Came" and "Sunset Soon Forgotten" they achieve an aura of spectral aching lambency.
Normally an album as one paced as "Our Endless Numbered Days" would pall after half a dozen tracks but the only track which drags is the relatively short "Radio War" which is basically a two minute one chord strum. Overall this an imperturbable treat and the only reason I haven't given it full marks is because it lacks the diverse dynamic I in my stubborn way insist all great albums should have. Other than that it's more or less flawless.
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'Our Endless Numbered Days' is another beautiful album from Iron & Wine. It is along the same lines as 'The Creek Drank The Cradle', but where as that album was one man and his guitar, this album creates the same feel with more musicians and instruments. Saying that, it still has that bare, open and melodious feel to it, just augmented in all the right places. This is great to sit back and drift away to, the music washes over you and makes you engage with it. Like all the albums, it gets better with repeated listening and this will soon become another integral part of your music listening life. Well worth a try.

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There is something about the release of new album that often sends you back to older ones and rekindles a spark. Sam Beam's latest Iron and Wine production "Ghost on ghost" is a charming, diverse and relatively slick musical feast but whether the songs match his previous top of the mountain standards is debatable. In any case there are a number of different Sam Beams. One is a musician who likes to relentlessly experiment and another is a acoustic balladeer who writes songs so tender that his CDs should come with a complimentary box of tissues and a hand to hold. This reviewer admires the former but prefers the latter and it is in "Our Endless Numbered Days" that this side of Beam finds its full expression.

Beam has also been a bit of a "DIY" singer and his first couple of recordings lacked any professional studio sheen. This was conquered on this 2004 album where the recording quality is pristine and all the right parts come together and fit perfectly. Highlights included the simply sumptuous "Fever Dream" which harks back to halcyon days of Simon and Garfunkel, the gentle rolling acoustics of ""Sunset soon forgotten" as we come" and the divine "Naked as we come" where he sings of "One of us will die inside these arms/ Eyes wide open, naked as we came/ One of us will spread our ashes around the yard" . There is a darker edge here not least Beam's attempt to come to terms with religion and his own self doubt. In some of the songs we also see the emergence of latter preoccupations around death not least he narrator of "Free Until They Cut Me Down" who looks forward to his final moments leading up to and including his hanging. The overall impression nevertheless is one of a rarified intimacy which makes it almost a whisper of a record and the comment in the Pop Matters review of this album hits the button when it states that "It's a man in a cornfield, on his back and imagining". You should follow this as advice since listen to "Love and some verses" and you will swear that you can hear the clouds move.
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on 21 April 2006
The 'one bloke with an acoustic and a bucket of tunes' bus is surely getting a little crowded, but Sam Beam, a lecturer from Florida who makes up Iron & Wine's studio line-up, gets by thanks to being perhaps the quietest of them all. Singing in a mid whisper, and almost always just with his guitar, he writes simple slow summery songs about life. So of course, that means he's reflective, wistful, has songs about love, but the great thing is the low volume really does create a rare sense of constant intimacy. Honest.

Songs like 'Fever Dream' and 'Naked As We Came' are just stripped down songs about love to absorb yourself in; all simple melodies and caring lyrics. He's definitely moved on from previous album 'The Creek Drank The Cradle' which suffered from repitition for me, and whilst I dont think Beam will ever be anyone's favourite singer/songwriter, his albums are like a walk in a nice forest; not something you want to overdo but something you can always rely on for a nice, different and thoughtful experience.
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on 20 October 2004
Perhaps less distinctive than Sufjan Stevens and Will Oldham (two other recent discoveries of mine of a similar ilk), but quality nevertheless. Mainly just Beam and his guitar, this album like most good ones benefits from repeated listens and promises further gems to come.
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on 25 June 2004
I found this album to be a bit of a dichotomy: this is due to the fuller sound that Sam Beam has instilled in to his latest release; but the sound an ostensibly sparse one.
I have enjoyed the previous releases and this did not disappoint. Whilst there is nothing as immediate as 'Jesus the Mexican Boy'(from the 'Sea and the Rhythm' E.P), I have found that after multiple listens I am still finding things in each song, hushed and haunting as the vocals are.
I would like to recommend that this could be a good starting point for people wishing to dip their toes into the the new acoustic movement as it is accessible yet still gives the listener the feeling that the songs are written for their ears only.
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on 3 September 2009
I originally bought this album after hearing the song Passing Afternoon during the last episode of House, Season 4. It's one of my favourite songs, and I was delighted to find that it wasn't the only great song on the album. I often buy albums and find I only like 2-4 of the tracks. But with this one I like all of them, maybe not equally, but still, I never find myself skipping any.

It's an emotional/moving, chilled and just very enjoyable bit of music and I'm glad to have now added it to my ecclectic music collection!
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on 4 May 2005
You know you're listening to Americana when the songs make you wish you could jet off across the alantic. And every track here does..except Free Until They Cut Me Down, which for some reason reminds me of the train to Birmingham I was on when I heard it. Built on a plucked bassline with an etheral falsetto chorus, the song is probably the closest Sam Bean gets to 'upbeat' here. Most are lazily strummed sun baked folk songs, personal highlights being Sodom, South Georgia, weepy closer Passing Afternoon and of course Free Until They Cut Me Down. Lack of innovation prevents me giving it 5 stars , though this is an improvement on Creek Drank the Cradle which, while pleasant, borders worryingly on the monotonous.
Think of a less country (and of course..male) Be Good Tanyas, Mendoza Line without the syrupy production , of Sufjan Stevens' Seven Swans with fewer banjos and no Gawd fearin' preaching. Definetly worth the investment.
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