The long awaited Around The Well is split into two halves, the first a soft collection of home recordings, the second a spruced up smattering of studio work. Disc one is reminiscent of 2002’s The Creek Drank The Cradle in that it is restrained of detail and relies solely on a minimal amount of musical instruments. This gives it a wholesome, stripped down atmosphere. The 11 tracks on the first part are unedited and raw, so there is nothing to distract from Iron & Wine creator Sam Beam’s genius. The tracks find unity in their heartbreaking melodies. ‘Swans and the Swimming’ has a sombre rhythm to it that washes over you and shows that recordings don’t have to be flawless to connect with listeners.
The second part of the double LP picks up the pace slightly and goes hand in hand with good summer weather. Even the covertly melancholy ‘Love Vigilantes’, narrated by a dead soldier, will find a place in your heart with its anthem-like chorus. Things brighten up on ‘Kingdom of the Animals’ where Beam’s storytelling capabilities are accompanied by piano and harmonica.
The second disc switches between songs centred around the latter light-heartedness and a darker element. ‘Serpent Charmer’ is a good example of this with its twisting melodies and whispered vocals that linger just out of reach. Sinister ‘Carried Home’ gets into your brain and stays there, the tinkling piano sending shivers up your spine as the song progresses.
‘The Trapeze Swinger’, the ten-minute finale recorded especially for the film In Good Company, is the perfect way to end the double album and reflects just how far Beam has come under the moniker of Iron & Wine.
Words: Mary Machin