Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording engineered by Patrick Stolley
There are those days when we feel like we couldn't be more lost, as if we're literally fumbling around without any sort of pattern or clear destination in mind. We're blurry on the edges, half seeing things and half seeing right through them. We're breathing in fog, breathing out fog and our teeth are chattering incoherent error messages, making it feel as if every inch of our skin is short two or three heavy-duty blankets. We're off somewhere, for all intents and purposes, gone - out in the ether. These are the days when we feel that, to cut our losses, we should just remain on the sides of the windows where the least amount of damage can be done to us, where we're at least as safe as our belongings, our hoarded stuff makes us feel. We suppose that the knives could always turn on us and the same goes for the glass bottles and jars - likely always willing or capable of cracking off their bottoms sides on the edge of a counter to wield a jagged weapon. What we're most worried about - it seems to me and to Mr. Sam Beam of Iron & Wine - is not when our belongings might come alive, turn on us and seek blood, but when those other people that we share a home with, that one person we share that shaky skin with, decide that they want to turn on us. They don't know what this can look like and neither do we. We just believe it to be the worst that can happen. Beam, over the years, has written his way into these scenes, written us advertently right into them with him, alongside him, and we remain there, with him, unable to catch our breath. He takes the fog right out of us, counteracts our insecurities with the beautifully hushed uncertainty. It's as if he has a way of gathering up all of the bumps in the night, all of the fire light and all of the tender touches of a young mother or father, of a dying grandmother or grandfather and bringing them all into the picture to put us at ease. It's as if all of the things that we've ever feared in our lives - bringing life into the world, growing older and passing out of the world we lucked into, and all of the craziness in the whirlwind in between - are summed up in Iron & Wine songs, distilled into his leafy version of silence and love and shown to us in a way that makes them more enchanting than scary. He makes us think even more than we already do about Shel Silverstein's "The Giving Tree," and how even though that boy is sort of a needy little son of a bitch, the relationship between he and the tree is just about right and it tears us up inside, makes us want to weep hard, when we read it to our own children and think of them taking and leaving us until we're just a broken down stump someday - not meaning to hurt us, just doing what they have to do to make it through this lumpy life. On Beam's new album, "Kiss Each Other Clean," he's once again magnificent in his dry, honey prettiness, cutting us into these sad stories that are as classic as they come. We feel them in our bones. We cry for these people, if only, because they sound like people that we have so much in common with. We love when he writes things like "the night won't compensate the blind," or sings about how someone's getting lectured that time is neither kind, nor unkind because it feels like we're here, barefoot and feeling every blade of grass prick us in the toes, the arches and the heels, as if trying to get our soles to turn and look at what's above them. Just look up. See that sky up there. Wonder where it goes, where it ends and know well enough that all of us and our silly problems are quite minor. Such a thing will put the shine back in our eyes, keep the fogginess out of our mouths and hearts and will brighten up everything we've got stored inside that ribcage of ours.