Folk rock based singer/songwriter Samuel Beam has released another musical gem. Following his low-fidelity 2002 debut, Our Endless Numbered Days is what broke Iron and Wine out of their underground indie fan base. With drastically improved audio quality, Sam Beam is able to clearly and successfully portray the beauty of his harmonic abilities. Think Simon and Garfunkle and the Decemberists’ acoustical child. The recording is dominated by his soft, whisper-like singing tone. Every subtlety of his singing can be clearly heard, as it is brought into the forefront: the pucker of his lips opening and closing, a swallow, a deep breath, etc. Every bit of it adds together to create a handsome concoction of rolling folk. Beam’s sister, Sara, accompanies him on some tracks, adding gorgeous harmonies to support his brother’s incredibly powerful, yet subtle voice. The lyrics are incredibly poetic, containing beautiful similes and metaphors such as “Papa died while my / Girl Lady Edith was born / Both heads fell / Like a crack in the door”.
But equally as important is what is occurring in the backdrop. Beam’s guitar lines and chord structures perfectly convey what Beam is singing about. For instance, in Sunset Soon Forgotten, the guitar line really portrays a sense of reflection. The line is uncommonly timed, and is not fully resolved until the end. “Down and down / once again” is stressed by a slide which slowly drops off.
Altogether, Iron & Wine’s Our Endless Numbered Days is an utterly calm, reflective album. It is very quiet and subtle, but almost very busy at the same time. The poetic, literary lyrics are incredibly dense, while the guitar generally artfully accompanies the gorgeous voicings. Overall, the album could not get any more elegantly articulate.