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[02.21.2011 by Bridget Doyle]


 » The Top 30 Albums of 2010 - Fashionably, fabulously late, our favorite music (and believe me, there was a LOT) of 2010, the year that some have called the best year for music ever. And only some of those fools work here. Plenty of usual suspects, lots of ties and a few surprises that I won't spoil, including our unexpected #1.
[12.24.2010 by The LAS Staff]


 » Live: Surfer Blood/The Drums at Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL - Remember when Weezer used to put together records that you could sing along to and rock out to? That's what Surfer Blood's show was like!
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Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
Halcyon Digest
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Fat Possum
Iron and Wine
Around the Well
Sub Pop

Rating: 7.2/10 ?

June 5, 2009
As the old adage goes, to move forward, one must take a look back. The release of a retrospective album typically comes in response to a longstanding career in music, and signals an artist in waning twilight. But, consider the seven-year career of Sam Beam, the soft-spoken beard aficionado of the one-man vehicle, Iron and Wine. With his extensive catalogue and laundry list of past collaborations, Beam is the exception. His "look back" comes in the form of Around the Well, a two-disc set of B-sides, out-of-print and unreleased material spanning from his 2002 debut The Creek Drank the Cradle through 2007's The Shepherd's Dog. Like a yin and yang, Beam contrasts the two sides of his musical career: disc one is comprised of home recordings, his lonely-sounding DIY projects, while the second houses technology-enhanced studio efforts.

If ownership is the differentiator between what constitutes an innovator from the multitude, then Iron and Wine is the proprietor of lucid, homespun sonics. His unmistakable hushed vocals and music-box-like instrumentals, have, in recent years, made Beam the de facto face of contemporary folk. Buzzwords aside, Iron and Wine is more in step with label mates and fellow South Carolinian scenesters, Band of Horses, than any posturing indie-rockers. Yet, Around the Well's unpolished Country Western attitude and unapologetically grave delivery is not simply Beam's dewy-eyed reflections; though the hen house burning lads of "Call Your Boys" or the elusive Jenny of "Kingdom of the Animals" may be foreign or unrelatable, they are more than likely to induce pangs of nostalgia for you, too.

For the Iron and Wine neophyte, disc one is a hearty introduction to his usual sparse vocal and guitar arrangements: twangy banjos, weepy slide guitars, plunky acoustics, layers of whisped melody. Beam's knack for lush harmonies, like those of "Morning," bridge the gap between REM sleep and consciousness. Lending his simplistic approach to unlikely covers, Stereolab's "Peng! 33" and The Postal Service's "Such Great Heights," he offers a deconstructed sound 180 degrees away from its original manifestation. Several minutes of the tinny, fuzzy listen, however, is a bit wearing on the ears.

Side two leaves behind the lo-fi production values for the crisp, clean punch of "Communion Cup"'s first piercing notes. Where disc one is somewhat smokey and laborious, the second has a pulse, is more developed and, thanks to studio help, is obviously more expansive. Beam ventures to experiment with mock sitar and a hard, hallow knock of percussion on "Serpent Charmer," a deep hum of strings on "Carried Home," and synthy accents on "Arms of a Thief." Despite the similitude of both discs, their respective modesty and muscularity present variety without overreaching. To put it into trite punny terms, Well has some depth.

Reviewed by Lara Longo
Lara Longo is a writer and photographer from Brooklyn, NY. In 1989, Lara received her first CD player and album, Appetite for Destruction; ever since, music is something she has fawned over, hated on, and played loudly. Her work has also appeared in Relix and New York Cool. Lara’s interests include sharks, European television, and the Hammond B3 organ.

See other reviews by Lara Longo



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