Iron & Wine "Light Verse"
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FORMAT | LP
When the pandemic began, and the world shut down, so did the process of creating for Iron and Wine’s Sam Beam. In its place was a domesticity that the singer hadn’t felt in a long time, and although it was filled with many rewards, making music was not one of them. Reflecting on that time, Beam notes:
“I feel blessed and grateful that I and most of my friends and family made it through the pandemic relatively unscathed compared to so many others, but it completely paralyzed the songwriter in me. The last thing I wanted to write about was COVID, and yet every moment I sat with my pen, it lingered around the edges and wouldn’t leave. This lasted for over two years.”
The journey back began with a recording session in Memphis to record a handful of Lori McKenna tracks for the EP Lori with friend and producer Matt Ross-Spang. The cathartic experience reconnected Beam with his love for making music, and soon enough the paralysis had passed, and he was finishing lyrics and booking studio time for what would become Light Verse.
Light Verse was recorded with engineer and mixer Dave Way at his studio Waystation high up in Laurel Canyon (with an additional session at Silent Zoo Studio with a 24-piece orchestra), with a host of talented musicians joining Beam: Tyler Chester, Sebastian Steinberg, David Garza, Griffin Goldsmith, Beth Goodfellow, Kyle Crane, and Paul Cartwright. And, Fiona Apple joined Beam on vocals for the duet “All In Good Time.”
Beam lyrically once again takes focus on a series of both fictional and personal insights, filled with desperate characters and wide-eyed optimists, offering promise and a dose of heartache, tears and laughter, life and love. Taking stock in the album’s title, he jokes, “Light verse is 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….”
While true this may be Iron and Wine’s most playful record, Beam says the title mostly reflects the way the songs were born with joy after the heaviness and anxiety of the pandemic. Where recent records like Beast Epic or Weed Garden gave air to the disquiet of middle-aged frailty and brokenness, these songs trade that for the focus acceptance can bring. Moment by moment, they delight in being pointed or silly (or both) and attempt beauty over prettiness.
Light Verse is Iron and Wine’s seventh full-length overall and fifth for Sub Pop Records. Fashioned as an album that should be taken as a whole, it sounds lovingly handmade and self-assured as a secret handshake. Track by track, its equal parts elegy, kaleidoscope, truth, and dare.