GHOST ON GHOST
Iron & Wine
The beautifully bewhiskered Sam Beam's fifth outing as Iron & Wine has split the critics between those who think his new, slightly startling 70s-drenched sound sees his "characters getting lost in their clothing" and those who see the smooth jazz-like polish of tracks like Grass Windows as a bold and confident move from a man who has been continually pushing his boundaries since his stunning troubadour 2002 debut The Creek Drank the Cradle.
But, to my mind, there's no one who's emerged from the past decade's alt country dustbowl with such a vivid sense of Americana and the potential of its coast-to-coast scope, and if that means Carpenters-esque brushed-snare production smoothness, a few Beach Boys sha-la-las or piano-and-string backgrounds, heck, I'll give him time to convince me.
That Beam's wide-eyed psychedelic lyrics are so masterful, the tracks so cleanly arranged and his delivery so typically sweet makes for one of the undoubted albums of the year.