You can’t refer to Iron & Wine as exclusively Sam Beam anymore, if you ever really could.
Every album makes it clearer that those original 4-Track static-laden tracks were made from necessity and not artistic choice. The exponentially expanded instrumentation makes for some amazing moments. We get the straightforward songs we’ve gotten used to (“Lovesong of the Buzzard”) ,Eastern-inspired songs (“White Tooth Man”), and crazy shit like a Motown ballad with an accordion (“Flightless Bird, American Mouth”) for something you rarely see these days: an album as original as it is awesome.
If 2005’s overwhelmingly pleasant Rather Ripped wasn’t proof enough, the sweet violin work on Trees Outside the Academy should be conclusive evidence that the Moore-fronted Sonic Youth probably won’t be coming out with another Bad Moon Rising anytime soon.
Excellent songs such as “Frozen Gtr,” “Shape Is in a Trance,” and “Fri/End” offer a slight variation on Moore’s classic whacked-out guitar sound, but it’s nothing groundbreaking. Moore only dabbles in the noisy a few brief times, including one song — “Free Noise Among Friends” — that I’m convinced is just an extended fart joke at noiseniks’ expense.
Songs like “I Think I Love You” and “Evening News” show personal growth and disillusionment with the superficial content of shallower hip-hop, but this isn’t exactly ATLiens or even Mixtape Messiah Pt. 2. Much of the album (“Pimp Mode,” “Rock Star,” “Welcome to the South”) maintains Houston’s wood-wheel-working, syrup-sipping status quo.
Since this is still a solid album, the usual isn’t necessarily bad, but it is a little disappointing. Cam’s musical pallet expands slightly, but nothing on the album quite reaches the social-critique/catchy-single sweetness of “Rdin’ Dirty.”
Final Verdict: Victory’s no instant classic, but it does increase the betting odds that Cham will drop one soon. •