By Bob Ruggiero
By Hilary Hughes
By Peter Gerstenzang
By David R. Adler
By Devon Maloney
By Brian McManus
By Jessica Hopper
By Harley Oliver Brown
As befits a guy whose songs have never lacked for juicy visual metaphors, Sam Beam of Iron & Wine describes the difference between his previous album and his new one this way: I definitely had a lot of ideas I was itching to try on The Shepherds Dog, he says of that 2007 effort, which dramatically expanded their acoustic indie-folk sound with fuzzy electric guitars and tricky West African rhythms. And I did for this one, too. But last time, it was like I spread all those ideas out on a tablelike, Here they are!where on this one, theyre all bunched up in my hand in the shape of a fist.
Beam doesnt mean that Kiss Each Other Clean, due out January 25, presents a newly aggro Iron & Wine. Indeed, even with its various sonic extremitiescheck out the nasty funk groove in Big Burned Hand or the driving blues licks peppered throughout Your Fake Name Is Good Enough for Methis is deeply lovely stuff, less knuckle sandwich than toasted Brie on baguette. Rather, the 36-year-old bandleader is referring to what he considers the new discs tighter focus, the way it pursues its goals with a newly extroverted energy. Theres a hop to it, he says. It feels a bit more pop-oriented to me.
Beams principal collaborator on Kiss Each Other Clean was producer Brian Deck, who also helmed The Shepherds Dog and 2004s Our Endless Numbered Days. Ive always liked the idea of having someone to grow and develop with, to keep in mind what weve done and where were going, Beam says, adding with a laugh, It worked for George Martin and the Beatles, right?
Deck cites Fleetwood Mac and middle-period Elton John as having influenced the albums lived-in arrangements. ( Middle period being the 1970s, the producer clarifies. I guess thats early Elton John to most people, but Im old.) Working at both Decks studio in Chicago and at Beams home outside Austinwhere the singer resides with his wife and five daughtersthe two musicians were determined, says Deck, to resist deconstructing certain pop-song elements as they had in the past. We wanted to make things more legible. One example of what hes talking about: a killer sax solo in Me and Lazarus by Stuart Bogie of New Yorks Antibalas. Are you gonna do anything Lou Reed didnt do in 1968 or Marilyn Manson didnt do a few years ago? Deck asks rhetorically. I doubt it. But the thing you can still do is make fucking rad musical decisions and just go with them.
Beams new dedication to legibility comes at a fortuitous time, as Kiss Each Other Clean will be the first Iron & Wine record to arrive on a major labelspecifically, Warner Bros. Records. Given that he already plays to sizable crowds and has placed songs in films like Garden State and a commercial for M&Ms, Beam admits hes unsure what exactly Warner Bros. can do for Iron & Wine at this point in his career. But change is good, he says. I like new scenarios, and weve been happy with them so far. Well just see where this goes.
According to Deck, where it goes definitely wont be TMZ. Sam doesnt care about celebrity at all, the producer says. Hes not gonna show his tits at a Yankees game to get people to pay attention to him. I think he just wants his music to reach as many people as possible. I mean, doesnt everybody?
Iron & Wine, Radio City Music Hall, January 29, radiocity.com
Winter Music Listings
If you werent aware that this member of New Yorks great indie-folk outfit Ida is spending much of her time these days doing music for kids, perhaps this shows 11 a.m. curtain will clue you in. Like They Might Be Giants and Dan Zanes, Mitchell declines to treat her listeners like vertically challenged morons; Id happily play her latest, this years lovely Sunny Day, even without my son in the room. That said, Mitchell knows (and respects) young minds; shes not one of these kiddie acts more interested in impressing you than in keeping her audience engaged. Symphony Space, 2537 Broadway at 95th Street, symphonyspace.org
Hall & Oates
The influential pop-soul duo have been receiving props of late from a wide range of fresh-faced hipsters, including Chromeo, Travie McCoy, and the Bird and the Bee, who earlier this year released an album of affectionate Hall & Oates covers called Interpreting the Masters. But Daryl and John havent receded into rocker-emeritus status yet: Tonight, they bring their Do What You Want, Be What You Are tour to the Beacon for an evening of creamy vocal harmonies and tart romantic analysis. Only thing: Mr. Halls the one with the mustache nowaim those undergarments appropriately, ladies. Beacon Theatre, 2124 Broadway, beacontheatre.com
These Berlin-based industrial-metal wackos havent played the United States since 2001, and this MSG date will be their only one this year. So expect an onstage spectacle even more awesomely overblown than Rammsteins flame-licking norm. The bands most recent album, Liebe Ist Für Alle Da, came out last year, preceded by a hilariously straightforward lead single entitled Pussy; perhaps well be treated to clips from the tunes Jonas Åkerlunddirected hard-porn video tonight. Either way, prepare to be both offended and exhilarated. With Combichrist. Madison Square Garden, 4 Pennsylvania Plaza, thegarden.com