The positive nihilism of Iron & Wine's 'Light Verse' - WXPN | Vinyl At Heart

Sam Beam is aging like… well, a fine wine. His project Iron & Wine‘s latest LP, Light Verse, is both “a form of poetry about playful themes that often uses nonsense and wordplay, and it’s my first official Iron & Wine comedy album! Just kidding,” he joked on his website. Recorded and mixed in Laurel Canyon by Dave Way, Beam’s seventh full-length album uses poetic lyrics and a variety of sounds to make light of the absurdity of the human spirit.

“Anyone’s Game” is positive nihilism at its finest, shown in the upbeat way he outlines the tragedies and triumphs of being alive. A steady thumping drumbeat accompanies the acoustic guitars and lilting lyrics, as Beam warmly lays bare the ways we create and destroy ourselves. The music video was released in early April, an organic, stop-motion piece with youthful cutouts that further carry the message that Light Verse is for humans of all ages.

Iron & Wine - Anyone's Game

Though it’s easy for artists with extensive discographies to get trapped in a cycle of creating versions of the same song (with slight edits in lyric or melody), Iron & Wine avoids that. While the album as a whole is a meditation on life, each individual song stands on its own with a different mood and a separate answer to the ever-posed question, “What should we do with this life?”

Fiona Apple is featured in “All in Good Time,” one of four tracks featuring a 24-piece orchestra recorded at Silent Zoo studio. Originally released as a single in March, it’s a soulful duet that’s a perfect blend of the two artist’s styles. Another track featuring the orchestra, “Angels Go Home,” is practically cinematic.

Light Verse’s crescendo is in its eighth track. “Tears that Don’t Matter” is a rueful celebration of the passage of time. With imagery and strings evoking Nick Drake, Beam explores the lasting impact of the physical and conceptual “stuff” that we leave behind. The track’s final lyrics are perhaps the most moving – “And that voice that you love and the life you were dreaming / The doors that keep closing, all the hands you let go of / And the tears that don’t matter.”

Iron & Wine - Tears That Don't Matter

“Sweet Talk” is pop with a punch, another gleefully heartbreaking meditation on both the wins and losses that make life wonderful. Beam asks his listeners to “Go with the flow / Bleed like color on the clothes / Of a wonderful life.”

Iron & Wine’s Light Verse is a testament to Sam Beam’s songwriting skills. It’s simply strings and drums and acoustic guitar and stanzas on stanzas of truth.

See Iron & Wine at XPN’s NON-COMMvention on Tuesday, May 7th. Keep your eyes on for video livestream information as well as the convention schedule, and listen to Light Verse below.

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