Iron And Wine
Light Verse


3.8
excellent

Review

by Sunnyvale STAFF
April 30th, 2024 | 48 replies


Release Date: 04/26/2024 | Tracklist

Review Summary: All in good time, and that’s what it was

There may never be a real consensus on what the best Iron & Wine album is, but 99% of respondents in my (totally legit) poll would probably cite one of the first three, a triumvirate all released plus or minus twenty years ago. Indeed, it’s been nearly seven years since the project’s last full-length (Beast Epic), even if that lengthy interim has been punctuated by a smattering of live albums and EPs. All this strongly suggests that, past grandeur aside (AKA some of the most monumental achievements in indie folk), Iron & Wine has reached the “resting on laurels” career stage.

This supposition is further supported by the fact that 2017’s Beast Epic was a pretty damn “safe” release. Assessed with fresh ears, it’s clear that the record isn’t nearly as stripped-down in aesthetic as Sam Beam’s earliest material, but it’s equally evident that it represents a gentle “retreat” back towards those rootsy confines. The results are both lovely and wholly unambitious - not only failing to reach the godly heights which Iron & Wine once scaled, but instead content to simply dilly dally in the lowlands. As a result, my expectation was that Light Verse would hew to a similar form - very good fan service, without adding much new to the conversation.

Beam’s latest does excel in similar fashion to its humble predecessor - this is a beautiful album, imbued with a sedate feel, and representing a kind of, well, “old man music” in its most compelling form (I guess that last item was basically always true of Iron & Wine’s oeuvre, even in the halcyon days). However, it does manage to be more ambitious in intent as well. Light Verse might lean into its reflective vibes, but also manages to marry, perhaps better than any other release in the catalog, the uncomplicated dude-with-guitar sound of the Our Endless Numbered Days era with the more sonically adventurous backdrops of the Kiss Each Other Clean period.

The resulting forty-three minutes or so have no shortage of gorgeous moments. The lushness of “You Never Know” and the upbeat melodicism of “Sweet Talk” reflect the album’s more vibrant side, while the desolate emotion of “Taken By Surprise” and the sparse but dreamy “Yellow Jacket” lean upon the LP’s foundation of gently mellow folk. As usual, there’s plenty of melancholy to mine, but an unabashed helping of playfulness as well - perhaps nowhere more obvious that in the delightful “Cutting It Close”, as Beam throws out gems like “kissing this, kissing that, I’m kissing anybody kissing me back” or “life is long, could be a little longer, don’t get me wrong”. The full package feels like a pleasant moment of reminiscence, an aging man taking stock of what’s important in life, or what’s been done and what’s left to do. It’s the kind of album the vast majority of Beam’s indie folk peers would be happy to have under their belt.

With all that praise allotted, Light Verse does fall short in one vital area. For yours truly, Iron & Wine’s back catalog is absolutely littered with songs which are not only classics, but masterpieces which truly touch the soul - a non-exhaustive list includes “Muddy Hymnal”, “Sodom, South Georgia”, “The Trapeze Singer”, “Resurrection Fern”, “Walking Far From Home”, and “Autumn Town Leaves”. Such a tier of absolute brilliance is a tough bar to clear, sure, but with about a dozen listens down, none of Light Verse’s ten tracks comes anywhere near. So, in the end, this is a very good, borderline excellent, album, weaving together a delicate atmosphere with well-crafted arrangements and (unsurprisingly) beautiful lyricism, but strokes of genius are few and far between. Beam’s earlier triumphs have left me quite spoiled. Nonetheless, if you enjoy indie folk, Light Verse is worth your time as a quality late-career effort. It’ll feature heavily on my humid summer evening rotation in the coming months.



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user ratings (34)
3.6
great

Comments:Add a Comment 
Sunnyvale
Staff Reviewer
April 30th 2024


5987 Comments

Album Rating: 3.8

Had a bit of writer's block, so took me a while to come out with this one.



Probably good to spend more time with this album though - strange record in that I find very little "wrong" with it, which isn't true of most of his recent material, but I can't quite grab a hold of anything as particularly brilliant either, which is unusual for an Iron & Wine release. Quality effort for sure though, just more "middle of the road" but consistent.

WalrusTusk
April 30th 2024


1823 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Really well written review. It's nice to finally read something from staff that either isn't a meme or saturated with heavy bias.

AsleepInTheBack
Staff Reviewer
April 30th 2024


10289 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Sweeeet



I think the dude has gone on record saying he’s kinda comfortable these days chilling with his family and occasionally making folk music, which is guess explains the trickle of content (and common perception of safer tones) though personally I think Weed Garden is one of his best (and quirkiest) runs of songs oot.



Will read the rest of the review and jam asap!

DoofDoof
April 30th 2024


15326 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Good to see this get a review…because now I’ll only write a mini blurb on AOTY and no full review, I think I’d also suffer writer’s block with this because as nice as it is there doesn’t seem too much to say.



Strong comeback album and I’ll read the review in full soon.



‘Taken By Surprise’ is maybe my favourite so far, great atmosphere and emotion on that one.



The duet reminds me so much of something FJM would put out.

Sowing
Moderator
April 30th 2024


44007 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

This album feels more Glen Hansard/Gregory Alan Isakov than anything else he's done, and I mean that as a huge compliment. This is gorgeous and while my brain says this will eventually fall to a 4, my heart is riding with that 4.5 for as long as I'm still vibing with this (which I still very much am).



Excellent and very fair review, Sunny!

AsleepInTheBack
Staff Reviewer
May 1st 2024


10289 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Loving the hype rate sow



Agreed sunny with your write up: this is super nice and am glad he is still making music, but doesn’t move the needle in the way his first 3 did (or weed garden)

AsleepInTheBack
Staff Reviewer
May 1st 2024


10289 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

End of years that don’t matter comes pretty close though

Sowing
Moderator
May 1st 2024


44007 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Yeah, Tears that Don't Matter is one of his best songs ever.

theBoneyKing
May 1st 2024


24523 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

Nice review Sunny! I’m enjoying this even if some parts are a bit ho-hum, especially on some of the more low-key cuts. I’m with Doof on “Taken By Surprise”, that’s probably the biggest home run for me, really lovely song, the opener is up there too. Tears is interesting but I’m not sure it quite hangs together for me.

Sunnyvale
Staff Reviewer
May 1st 2024


5987 Comments

Album Rating: 3.8

Thanks folks!



@Doof, yeah, agreed that "Taken By Surprise" is my favorite here, awesome tune which really feels vulnerable. That said, doesn't touch the highs from most of his previous efforts.



@Sowing, I don't really see the Glen Hansard comparison, definitely could see the GAI reference though, his last couple releases have been a bit closer to that kind of sound.



@AsleepInTheBack, interested in your love of Weed Garden, I revisited it (and his other releases) while prepping this review, and while it's quite good in my eyes, "Autumn Town Leaves" is the only song from it that I find to be an all-timer.

DoofDoof
May 1st 2024


15326 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

This is another album that shows up how terrible that latest father John Misty album was - this had some of a similar old timey feel but that's where the comparison ends, far superior writing and performance

chemicalmarriage
May 1st 2024


4330 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

Good review good record

theBoneyKing
May 1st 2024


24523 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

This reminds me more of Andrew Bird than anything else for the most part. Apparently a lot of this was conceived during or inspired by their time touring together a couple years ago.

DoofDoof
May 1st 2024


15326 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Yes, a lot of the usuals - recent Andrew Bird and Damien Jurado sprung to mind

AsleepInTheBack
Staff Reviewer
May 1st 2024


10289 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

@sunny ye I think I’m in the minority with that take but What Hurts Worse, Autumn Town Leaves and Talking to Fog are all some of my favourite songs of his, and the other three tracks on the EP are all solid contrasting pieces. It’s a record me and my partner have listened to a lot together as well when chilling at home, so it’s a personal thing I suspect as much as anything.

Christbait
May 1st 2024


400 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Gave me Shepherd's Dog vibes at times. His best album in my opinion. There's good stuff on here if it is a relatively breezy, easy-listening sort of album.

DoofDoof
May 1st 2024


15326 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Shepherd's Dog remains my favourite, some absolute classics on that one and it has the variety and a fair few tempo switches for a mostly laidback folk album

Sunnyvale
Staff Reviewer
May 1st 2024


5987 Comments

Album Rating: 3.8

@AsleepInTheBack, yeah, totally get that. Talking To Fog is a beautiful tune as well.

Sunnyvale
Staff Reviewer
May 1st 2024


5987 Comments

Album Rating: 3.8

I think my Iron & Wine ranking (LPs only) would be this:



1)Our Endless Numbered Days

2) The Creek Drank The Cradle

3)The Shepherd's Dog

4)Kiss Each Other Clean

5) Beast Epic

6) this (very narrowly behind Beast Epic)

7)Ghost On Ghost

theBoneyKing
May 1st 2024


24523 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

Interesting, reading the review I had more the impression that this was your favorite after those top 3.



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