The Designer’s Drugs: Iron & Wine – Kiss Each Other Clean

Medium: Album

Stimulus: Iron & Wine – Kiss Each Other Clean

Anno: 2011

 

Iron & Wine’s newest collection of electrified singer-songwriting is pretty much the well-orchestrated affair that followers of Samuel Beam have come to expect.  That said, maybe it’s a bit too formulaic in places; Beam’s tendency to whisper and coo lullabies alongside soft-spoken accompaniment may be approaching typecasting.  All of this gives Kiss Each Other Clean a hit or miss quality.

After the bright fuzz-gospel of the opening track (“Walking Far from Home”) the album seems to coast through its midpoint.  That midpoint, however, brings the work’s best piece, the gloomy and seething “Rabbit Will Run,” which is both the album’s most musical and lyrical track.  From there, the album slides down a hill of the usual orchestrated guitar tracks, a jazzy funk track (“Big Burned Hand”), and an ending that drags a mantra out three minutes past the point of sense.

Brand loyalty will carry this new release through the spots where Beam’s songwriting flags, but make no mistake; this is a very good album.  Kiss Each Other Clean is certainly deserving of attention beyond the core fanboys, but it nevertheless feels a bit niche.

The Designer’s Drugs: The Jezabels – Dark Storm

Medium: Album

Stimulus: The Jezabels – Dark Storm

Anno: 2010

 

It’s clear from the first moments of this disc, in which a single guitar string riffs into a female vocalist gasping about being raped of sleep and other such contrived sentiments, that the Jezabels don’t aim to break new ground on Dark Storm. With a mixture of the dark stripe of 80s chick rock, low-end piano thrown in for menace, and a singer who sounds alternately like Stevie Nicks and Kate Bush, the total atmosphere of these five tracks is of a woman writing on silk sheets before climbing onto her rooftop and staring pensively out over the city during a rainstorm.

That said, if the Jezabels sounds like other acts, it sounds really good doing it.  “A Little Piece” leads the pack with speed and force, a rushing waltz in which the album’s dreary excitement is at its zenith.  “Mace Spray” is one of the better tracks: a little weak in the verse, but bearing a haunting introduction which creeps into explosions.

Yes, all of this has been heard before, but if you’re of a certain persuasion, Dark Storm might be a welcome return to familiar territory.