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 » 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.
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 » 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 & Wine
Our Endless, Numbered Days
Sub Pop Records

Rating: NR/10 ?

October 1, 2004
Sam Beam returns with his cabal of sleepy southern swamp sounds to extend the muggy front porch fantasy life of endless Florida evenings. This time out Beam chose to close the doors and record Our Endless, Numbered Days with a proper studio vibe, a move that could be seen as in the right or wrong direction, depending on who you ask. The upside to the more "produced" recording environment is that Beam's wispy guitar work is almost crystallized, the sweeping of course fingertips over course guitar strings amplified to create an intimacy that The Creek Drank the Cradle and The Sea & the Rhythm did not have. Notice I didn't say "lacked". Our Endless, Numbered Days is intimate, as were Beam's previous pair of outings, but they are so in different ways. The Creek Drank the Cradle and The Sea & the Rhythm was much more homely, down to earth, a direct consequence of, well, home recording. But the subtle background noise that gave the last two releases such character is noticeably missing from Beam's encapsulated studio work- this might be a good time for me to point out that Our Endless, Numbered Days was partially recorded at home, albeit in a much more aseptic manner. Wait a minute... are those crickets?

The opening track, "On Your Wings," finds Beam in familiar clothes, his whispered prayer floating hypnotically over the steady rhythm of a plucked guitar chord. Percussion makes an entrance onto Our Endless, Numbered Days but it is almost unnoticeable at first, Beam's vocals roping the listener in like some sort of malaria powered tractor beam from the Fakahatchee Strand. There are more subtle surprises wrapped tightly within the ribbon of Our Endless, Numbered Days, such as the understated piano melody of "Passing Afternoon," but diehard fans of The Creek Drank the Cradle need not bother wigging out. Beam's storytelling, which is about as cinematic and atmospheric as you'll find in the history of American folk music, remains the epicenter of Iron & Wine's power. Songs such as "Each Coming Night," "Naked As We Came," the lengthy "Cinder and Smoke" and "Love and Some Verses" are all testaments to the potency and durability of the clean finger plucking style that laid the foundation of The Creek Drank the Cradle.

Some people (namely whatever goon wrote up the one-sheet for Our Endless, Numbered Days) want to make a point of distancing Beam's recording process from his recordings. The songs, as the reasoning goes, are beautiful regardless of the context in which they were birthed. That much is true. But to truly understand the intimacy that entangles the listener as Beam unfolds his tales like origami swans fashioned from brittle 1850s newsprint- or if not to understand it, to at least attempt to explain it in a music review- is to approach the songs as songs. Beam doesn't write sheet music. His lyrical content and vocal delivery are haunting and extremely literate, his instrumental compositions (and their recording) intense and luxuriant. But, like the old adage of love and marriage, they simply cannot be separated. To lay the lines "and when you give me your clothes/ and when we're lovers at last/ fresh air, perfume in your nose/ there will be teeth in the grass" onto blank paper is indeed to create poetry, and to play the gently plucked banjo and guitar melodies alone would undoubtedly still prove overwhelming. But Sam Beam is Iron & Wine, and Iron & Wine is the entire experience, from the contemplative writing to the gritty recording to the sanctum of the headphones.

Reviewed by Eric J Herboth
Eric J. Herboth is the founder, publisher and Managing Editor of LAS magazine. He is a magazine editor, freelance writer, bike mechanic, commercial pilot, graphic designer, International Scout enthusiast and giver of the benefit of the doubt. He currently lives in rural central Germany with his two best friends, dog Awahni and cat Scout.

See other reviews by Eric J Herboth



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