Review Summary: The metal + alcohol combination never tasted so good.
Sam Beam has made huge leaps and strides as a musician since his humble beginnings recording in his bedroom. Under the Iron and Wine moniker he released The Creek Drank the Cradle
, a rustic affair of calm finger style guitar and soothing vocals that rings synonymous with Nick Drake’s Pink Moon
and Bon Iver’s For Emma, Forever Ago
. The album received a torrent of critical acclaim that sent the singer songwriter rocketing into the lime light. From there he put forth the gorgeous Our Endless Numbered Days
and finally embraced all modern recording studios have to offer with The Shepherd’s Dog
, his latest effort; yet with such consistent releases, it’s easy to ignore the slew of excellent EP’s that litter his discography.
The Sea and The Rhythm
features what are essentially the b-sides from Iron and Wine’s debut, and the two are admittedly very similar. Still shown here is the intimate, lo-fi feel, the minimalist quality and the ethereal harmonies as provided by Sarah Beam that made The Creek Drank the Cradle
a success; in fact, any of the five songs here would fit comfortably in with that record. Beginning with a plodding arpeggio pattern, Beam’s airy ascending falsetto asserts “Jesus the Mexican Boy” as the star of the show. Despite the religious connotations, the lyrics are as ambiguous as ever and are open for multiple interpretations, like most of the songs on the track list. “The Night Descending”, in third spot, is like listening to a full-blown cowboy ho-down; the pentatonic riff and twanging banjo is about as rock as you will get with Sam Beam, and it's something to behold. “Beneath the Balcony” follows in a similar folk-rock fashion, whilst “Someday the Waves” brings things back to a softer, more familiar sound fueled by a beautiful slide guitar and more of Sarah Beam's vocal prowess.
The problem with this release (and sadly the majority of Iron and Wine's catalog) is inconsistency. It isn’t that the quality of the music ever dips too substantially, but some songs here are – for lack of a better term – purely forgettable. The title track is a prime example: built around a typical linear song structure for Beam, it moves along monotonously without offering anything of interest until its end. This doesn’t mean it’s a bad song per say, but it does contribute to the homogeneous nature of the record and ultimately weighs it down. This issue wouldn't be much of a problem on a full-length album, but it is detrimental to an EP of such a short length and prevents this from becoming what could have been an absolute gem. Even still, this is a great little collection of songs that demonstrates Sam Beam doing what he does best: making beautiful, honest music.
A requirement for fans, but passable for the casual listener.
: Jesus the Mexican Boy, Beneath the Balcony, The Night Descending.