7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Rusty Iron, Sour Wine.,
This review is from: Ghost on Ghost (Audio CD)
Sam Beam's latest, for me, is a rather tepid, safe affair. I've listened to it for a week hoping that it'd grow on me with time but it gets duller with repeated listening. The Shepards Dog and Kiss Each Other Clean are two of my favourite records of recent years, the first utilised incredible songwriting, skillful, expansive arrangements and ethnic instumentation (sitars, tablas, harmoniums, etc)to widen Sam's previous acoustic templates. KEOC pushed the boat out even further with synths, horns and modern production techniques. Both refined his use of backing vocals and harmonies.
With Ghost on Ghost's though it sounds as though the proffessor's on auto-pilot. It's a backwards step from KEOC. The experimentation and bold, angular sonic textures which made that record so exciting are almost entirely absent on this LP. The horns are still there but they're deployed in a less funky/avante garde fashion. In fact they're present on most of the songs to a homogenous effect. Brass has been deployed too liberally in his live shows of the last few years, lending the music a middle-of-the-road, Van Morrison-esque, white soul-review feel. Unfortunately this style has now seeped into his studio work.
To be fair though this isn't a bad record. The rythym section in particular are incredible and the pedal steel playing in places is simply beautiful but this is essentially a dinner-party record. For me nothing leaps out, especially the songs themselves, I can't hear anything bold or risky. Ghost on Ghost approaches James Taylor territory in it's sweet and sickly mood, I'd be embarassed to play it in the car with windows wound down... something I'd never expect to have said of an Iron and Wine record.