Release Date: Sep 25, 2007
Record label: Sub Pop
Genre(s): Indie, Rock, Folk
Review Summary: Proof that Sam Beam is a genius and not just some guy who made a great album in his bedroom.The last time we heard from Iron and Wine in the LP format was in 2004, with the second album for Sam Beam and friends, Our Endless Numbered Days. That's not to say that they haven't been busy in those three years. In fact, Beam and co have released no less than three EPs since 2004, most notably Woman King and the Calexico collaboration, In the Reins.
The first four bars of The Shepherd’s Dog reveal as much about Iron and Wine’s latest record as they do the entire scope of Sam Beam’s creative output to date. A hollow guitar riff winds along metallically, as if being heard from the headphones of a brisk passerby, or the scattered mid-range of a forgotten AM radio speaker. The accompanying chatter of drumsticks clapping together in syncopation is so quaint that the intro to opener “Pagan Angel and a Borrowed Car” sounds like a tribute to Beam’s debut The Creek Drank the Cradle crammed into 15 seconds.
Sam Beam's work has often carried apocalyptic undertones, a dire biblical portent couched in the intimacy of his calming verses and hovering disconsolately behind wearily nostalgic narratives and augural allusions. The Shepherd's Dog almost inverts the approach, discordant textures usurping the album and leaving the traces of Beam's elegant subtlety shored only against the ruins of cryptic phrases in the rupture of rapture. Though the LP culminates a clear progression for Beam, Iron & Wine coalescing since 2005's Woman King into a band secure enough to experiment, the barrage of instrumentation and effects do little to advance the songs on The Shepherd's Dog.