Stepping out of his element, Samuel Beam—a.k.a Iron and Wine—broadens his musical approach on his latest album, Kiss Each Other Clean. As in his previous work, Beam maintains his whispery vocals throughout the album, making it clear that this is an Iron and Wine record. Kiss Each Other Clean should be viewed as an artistic development, and Beam should be commended for his innovation. But his departure from Our Endless Numbered Days and The Shepherd’s Dog is too great, and Beam loses himself in his experiment.
Kiss Each Other Clean features 10 new songs plus two bonus tracks available only on iTunes. The album focuses on beats based on xylophones, “easy listening” trumpets, and afro-beat drums. The song most illustrative of this experiment is “Run Rabbit Run,” in which Beam fuses electronica riffs, tam-tams, and a jazz flute to produce a song unlike any of his others.
Although his music has changed, it’s fortunate that Beam’s delivery and lyrics have not. Based on this quality, “Half Moon” and “Your Fake Name is Good Enough for Me” are the album’s best songs.
Despite the disappointment of Kiss Each Other Clean as an album, Beam says in “Run Rabbit Run” that “I still have a prayer, despite all the colours I’ve seen.” I still have a prayer that the next album will showcase Beam’s talents as we have experienced them before.