Iron and Wine - The Sea & The Rhythm (Cover Artwork)

Iron and Wine

Iron and Wine: The Sea & The RhythmThe Sea & The Rhythm (2003)
Sub Pop Records

Reviewer Rating: 4
User Rating:

Contributed by: AnchorsAnchors
(others by this writer | submit your own)

I was at my favorite record store in the world just the other day, The Soundgarden in downtown Syracuse, for those who also know of it, and as usual, I spent a good deal of money there. One of the things I picked up was Iron & Wine's The Sea & The Rhythm. It's only a 5-song EP, but I wasn't aware it.

I was at my favorite record store in the world just the other day, The Soundgarden in downtown Syracuse, for those who also know of it, and as usual, I spent a good deal of money there. One of the things I picked up was Iron & Wine's The Sea & The Rhythm. It's only a 5-song EP, but I wasn't aware it even existed. I'm a big fan of both The Creek Drank The Cradle and the more recent Our Endless Numbered Days. Chronologically, and sound-wise, this album fits right between those two stellar albums.

If you haven't been fortunate enough to hear Sam Beam's brand of lo-fi folk, than you've been missing out on some of the most enjoyable albums I've heard in years. Every song beautifully tells a story, complete with vivid imagery and strong symbolism. Beam uses nothing but an acoustic guitar and, occasionally, a banjo to tell his stories of loss, regret, and in this album's instance, religion. While at the core, the characters in his songs seem to have abandoned all hope of something better, they always end up with at least a sign of hope, albeit usually a small one. While the subject matter in Beam's lyrics isn't exactly the same as it's been on the other two Iron & Wine albums, the tempos and overall feel of the songs remain quite similar. That's not to say the lack of change hurts this EP, because that would be completely and totally off base.

The tone of this album is set from the very beginning on the album's first track, "Beneath The Balcony." To me, the focus of Beam's songs has always been the story in the lyrics. Sure, the guitar is there, but it's the words that he wants to resonate in everyone's head long after this CD leaves their player. The lyrics are well-written in every facet, be it symbolism, imagery, or just how well the lyrics and the music behind it create the song itself; "And how he prays to find a man to blame / For every sleepless night he spends / For every well he warned me of / But wound up falling in." Or later in the song, the religous undertones come out; "Somewhere, the soft-handed boys / Bleeding hearts, and worker bees / Give the holy mother begging change / Christ across her knees / And now she prays to find a man to blame / For every loveless night she waits." Now, before I go further, I'd like to make sure everyone understands that this isn't a Christian album. As far as I know, Beam has no formal ties to Christianity, at least not through his music. He's not preaching, in any stretch of the imagination, just telling his stories.

By far, my favorite song on the album is the title track. It's a slow but captivating song and evokes powerful imagery with every beautifully-sung line. Also important to know is that since this is the EP's longest song, at a bit more than five minutes, it allows for the most instrumentation. When the lyrics give way, the slow plucking remains, and just as beautifully. That's not to say the lyrics aren't the song's driving force, as they still remain so; "Tonight, we're the sea and the salty breeze / The milk from your breast is on my lips / And lovlier words from your mouth to me / When salty my sweat and fingertips / Our hands they seek the end of afternoon / My hands believe and move over you." It all works perfectly. The subtle guitar lulls you in, and the lyrics will never release their tightening grasp.

One of the album's most powerful tracks, "Jesus The Mexican Boy," tells the story of a boy whose only goal in life, it seems, is to spread his generosity and trust to others, not looking to gain a thing in return, yet, betrayed by his friend by the time things are through. A reference to Judas continues with one of the album's themes, but it's only to add that feeling of betrayal in the story that Beam masterfully tells.

This is an album that's going to be in rotation for me for a while. If you've never heard Iron & Wine, this is a good starting point. Fans of Nick Cave, Teitur, and maybe even a more mellow version of Modest Mouse's The Lonesome Crowded West would find this album to be a great one, and so will anybody else who appreciates good music and storytelling.


People who liked this also liked:
Band of Horses - Everything All the TimeYakuza - SamsaraWires on Fire - Wires on FireNow Soldiers - Sick WorldCastle - Electric WolvesHow We Are - To Teach a HundredParallax - Mediums and MessagesDeathcycle - DeathcycleZao - The Fear Is What Keeps Us HereHarlots - This Is the Second Death

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Fine Print: The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. We are not respon sible for them in any way. Seriously.
Anonymous (January 28, 2005)

YESSSSSSSS. Sad bastard folk-pop. Bor-fucking-ing.

-the other baldwin brother

greg0rb (January 27, 2005)

I love this guy. Also, I can see the Modest Mouse correlation. Lonesome has some mellow tracks like Bankrupt on Selling, which has a kinda white trash folk thing going... god that is one of my fav albums of all time.

Anonymous (January 27, 2005)

this guy's overrated, but I still like him. his "Such Great Heights" cover was good.

hobbitcore (January 26, 2005)

"your" even

Anonymous (January 26, 2005)

and for the sake of you being able to rebuttle with you're "i'm obviously obsessed" jibes...this is hobbitcore

Anonymous (January 26, 2005)

honestly, i don't understand why everyone thinks this guy is such a good writer. long-winded reviews with flowery language do not make good writing. there's such a thing as understatement, dude...try to remember that. beyond that, i've read many of the 1038 "screamo" reviews that this guy has done and he talks about so many records as if he got into them last week and he's SO excited about it. i think it's great that you're so passionate about music but the comparisons and claims you make are often unfounded and you're waaay too exhuberant with your reviews.

i hope you accept my constructive criticism open-mindedly. you have potential, you just pontificate too much and it gets tedious.

Anonymous (January 26, 2005)

aquariusrecords rocks more

kenjamin (January 25, 2005)

hot water music and takaru are beardcore

Anonymous (January 25, 2005)

this stuff is beardcore

Anonymous (January 25, 2005)

Soundgarden rules.

(the record store, not the band)

GYBE (January 25, 2005)

Great EP. But it's pretty obvious through the lyrics of all of his work that he's a Christian and frequently uses this in his songs. Not that there's anything wrong with that.


Anonymous (January 25, 2005)

you know what's worse about reviewers on this site than the fact that every review has to include their stupid life story? it's how they sit and monitor their reviews to rebuke any comment made within 12 seconds of it being made? high school must be great.

Anchors (January 25, 2005)

I didn't say it sounds similar to any album. I said people who enjoyed Lonesome Crowded West may be interested in this, that's all.

Anonymous (January 25, 2005)

Modest Mouse? Are you kidding me? This has nothing in common with any MM album Nothing. Great EP, though.

Anonymous (January 25, 2005)

do yourself a favour, world, and find "the trapeze swinger", his new song from the "in good company" soundtrack. easily the best song he's ever written, and possibly the most beautiful nine and one half minutes ever.

Jesse (January 25, 2005)

He is. Do you just not see the yellow button?

ElVaquero (January 25, 2005)

Why is Anchors not staff yet?

Jesse (January 25, 2005)

A) Iron and Wine rules.

B) Sounds nothing like Modest Mouse or Nick Cave.

Anonymous (January 25, 2005)

This guy kicks ass.

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