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Ghost On Ghost

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Album Review

After expanding his intimate indie folk sound about as far as it could go on the last Iron & Wine album, Kiss Each Other Clean, Sam Beam (and trusty producer Brian Deck) take a step back on Ghost on Ghost and deliver something less suited for large arenas and more late-night jazz club-sized. The arrangements on that album were stuffed with instruments and seemed built to reach the back row; this time there are still plenty of horns, violins, and female backing vocals in the mix, but they are employed with a much lighter touch. Working with jazz drummer Brian Blade and a standup bass and mixing together elements of country, jazz, indie rock, and soft rock, the album has a much more intimate feel that suits Beam's quietly soulful vocals much more naturally. It's still very slick and pro-sounding, but not to the point of distraction. It sounds like the work of two highly skilled craftsmen making the kind of album they should make, instead of guys trying to make something relevant and "big." Beam's songs this time are more diverse than usual; he delivers the kind of songs an Iron & Wine follower would expect, nocturnal and hushed confessionals (the echoing "Joy," "Winter Prayers") and cinematic ballads ("Baby Center Stage") that sound like they would have fit in well on the last couple albums. Balancing these against gritty and intense songs that seethe with barely controlled drama and emotion ("Grass Widows," "Lover's Revolution") and a couple almost happy-sounding uptempo tracks (like the rambling, very Belle & Sebastian-influenced "Grace for Saints and Ramblers") shows that Beam is really expanding the kind of songs he is writing and doing it with a large degree of success. Anyone who has been with I&W since the beginning might find it hard to believe they would ever record a song as lightly soulful and sweet as the almost jaunty "The Desert Babbler" or as easy on the ears as "New Mexico's No Breeze," which sounds like a dusty indie pop take on Seals & Crofts, or as musically complex as the very hooky "Caught in the Briars." Bringing the scale back down to something human while injecting some jazz and sunshine into the I&W sound proves to be a very good strategy for Beam, and it makes Ghost on Ghost one of the most satisfying albums the group has done to date.

Customer Reviews

A Solid Album

It seems like everyone who dislikes this album wants to confine Sam Beam to an acoustic guitar when he's clearly more musically inclined than that. I think I'd personally go mad if I was forced to play solo acoustic sets all my life when I knew I could do more.

The album is good from beginning to end. Its not front-loaded like a lot of indie albums are. It's also surprisingly light- kind of a SHEPHERD'S DOG without teeth. There are no throw away songs, but there aren't any clear over-the-top stand out songs either. I'd forgive a misstep or two if it meant that any of the songs were as good as "Trapeze Swinger" or "White Tooth Man"; but alas- there are no peaks or valleys here. Instead, it sounds like an album were equal care had been placed into every song and it's a natural progression from KISS EACH OTHER CLEAN. Its also probably a better album than its predecessor.

After my first listen, I'd have to say "Joy", "Low Light Buddy of Mine" and "Baby Cener Stage" are my favourites, but things will undoubtedly change the more I hear the album. Case in point- as I'm writing this, I'm taking in just how beautiful a song "Sundown (Back in Briars)" really is.

Bottom Line: If you have liked Iron and Wine's last few albums, you'll like this one.


who thought this was a good idea, honestly, it sounds like background music that they use in a cheap cafe in the middle of no where-- and i don't mean that to sound ~~artistic~~. if you're looking for a good album by iron & wine, "our endless numbered days" is by far my favourite.

Just beautiful!

Sounds amazing! Can't wait to listen to the entire thing! What a sweet sexy voice to have in your ear while going about your day...


Born: July 26, 1974 in Columbia, SC

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '00s, '10s

Singer/songwriter Samuel Beam, who rose to prominence with a blend of whispered vocals and softly homespun indie folk, chose the moniker Iron and Wine after coming across a dietary supplement named "Beef Iron & Wine" while working on a film. Raised in South Carolina, Beam received his bachelor's degree in art from Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond and later his Master of Fine Arts degree from Florida State University Film School. Although Beam would later expand his sound to include...
Full bio
Ghost On Ghost, Iron & Wine
View In iTunes
  • $10.99
  • Genres: Alternative, Music, Indie Rock, College Rock
  • Released: Apr 16, 2013

Customer Ratings