Iron and Wine – Kiss Each Other Clean

Though not a remastered album, the newest record from Iron & Wine is certainly produced to high audiophile standards. Mastered by Greg Calbi, Sam Beam and Co.’s latest has much more of a pop feel than his past effort, The Shepherd’s Dog, which possesses more of a folk/Americana flavor. Longtime fans may even be taken back at the approach, which at times takes a turn down a highly ambient path. Those encountering Iron & Wine for the first time may be equally surprised, provided they explore the group’s earlier works.

If you didn’t know better, you might think Brian Eno had a hand in this record instead of resident Iron and Wine producer Brian Deck. It’s a very cool departure, but Beam doesn’t go so far out of his orbit to completely abandon the sound that originally put him on the mainstream radar a few years ago. A cursory listen to “Half Moon” anchors you to the band’s past.

And the recording quality is outstanding. Calbi has taken care not to push up the levels and squeeze the life out of the intimate recording. From the start, on the opening “Walking Far From Home,” the bass rattles the floor while the entire record has a very wide, lush soundstage reminiscent of the best studio creations of the 70s.

As a bonus, a CD is included for the iPod and music server generation. Once again, it’s nice to see the major labels nail it. And with vinyl sales up again in 2010, it would be great to see the $20 LP-and-CD combination become the norm. Sign me up. – Jeff Dorgay

Warner Bros., 180g LP and CD