By Steve Weinstein
By Bryan Bierman
By Lindsey Rhoades
By Chaz Kangas
By Ben Westhoff and Sarah Purkrabek
By Jena Ardell
By Jesse Sendejas Jr.
By Katherine Turman
Given the retiring nature of Beam's early stuff, it comes as something of a surprise to hear how authoritatively he rides this more rhythmically inclined material: In opener "Pagan Angel and a Borrowed Car," he elongates his vocal phrases in a way that transforms a rickety rockabilly lick into the makings of sensual mood music, while an account of getting "trampled in the Christmas parade" on "White Tooth Man" is lent physical oomph by the track's headlong throb. Lyrically, Beam utilizes the amped-up sonics to emphasize . . . well, it's always hard to tell. But suffice it to say that The Shepherd's Dog contains more than its fair share of bodies buried by the interstate and drunk kings fumbling for the royal keys.
Indie-folk traditionalists likely to be unsettled by Beam's broadening palette are advised to check out In Our Nature, the sophomore set from Swedish- Argentine crooner José González, whose pared-down cover of the Knife's "Heartbeats" earned loads of buzz. González's idea of instrumental embellishment is using his foot as a drum machine, and on In Our Nature he keeps things as studiously uncluttered as his English: "How Low," for instance, makes a central textural element out of the incidental scraping of guitar strings. Yet as on Iron and Wine's CD, rhythm plays a crucial part in González's songs, which tick with a metronomic precision that makes the music feel closer to Kraftwerk's techno than to Tom Jobim's bossa nova. One telling highlight here? A starkly dramatic reading of Massive Attack's "Teardrop." Dudes with guitars: not dead yet.
Iron and Wine plays Town Hall September 30. José González plays the Blender Theatre at Gramercy September 27-28 and the Music Hall of Williamsburg September 29, the-townhall.nyc.org, livenation.com, musichallofwilliamsburg.com