Sam Beam, also known as Iron and Wine, is out with his long-awaited new album today entitled Ghost on Ghost, a continuation of the more robust sound he showcased on 2011's Kiss Each Other Clean. Its hard to deny the profound evolution Iron and Wine has undergone over the last few years, a growth that has occurred slowly but deliberately as if to culminate in Ghost on Ghost- a full, rich, textured album. Formerly made up of soft, lilting tunes and faraway-like vocals with an analogue, old-timey, haunting feel, Sam Beam has taken that sound and built on it gradually, culminating in the ample sound that permeates Ghost on Ghost. Taking his trademark calming vocals and adding a bit of studio polish, much more instrumentation (bells, strings, and horns play a big role on this album) plus an often upbeat tempo, he's managed to hold onto his indie-alt-folk feel while adding a big band touch, minus any cheesiness. No longer content with a sleepy sound perfect for rainy days, it is now full bodied and texturally complex. On tracks like "Grace for Saints and Ramblers" there's a groovy type of combination with his trademark vocals, horns, piano, guitar and a bit of a lounge-style sound that serves the combination well. Even slightly lower tempo songs like "Joy" are brimming with this fuller, rounded out sound. "Low Light Buddy of Mine" gives us a bit of the old lo-fi, otherworldly vocal style of Sam Beam, as though he is singing from the next room, which he pairs with an apprehensive tone and heavy horns. "Winter Prayers" also offers up a bit of old-school Iron and Wine with its slow, lumbering tempo and simple vocals and instrumentation, but does it in a way that stays true to the now-plentiful sound of Iron and Wine.
Despite the continued expansion of the Iron and Wine sound on this album, the beautiful tones and melodies that make Iron and Wine's music so beautiful to listen to are still holding court. There are some tracks with a much faster tempo, and some that keep things on the chill side (like "Baby Center Stage"), and always with a lush musicality in the backing instrumentation to accompany Sam Beam's vocals. Strings, bells, horns, and a deep well of backing vocals are all woven together in a fantastic new tapestry of what Iron and Wine has evolved to over the last few years, leaving a satisfied feeling in the wake of its rich and bountiful sound.
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