Record Label: Sub Pop
The first Iron & Wine song that I ever remember hearing was ''Dead Man's Will,'' originally featured on the Yeti 1 compilation CD. Its hushed eloquence and unadorned beauty lent it a sort of soft power, a triumph of instinct over overstatement. That was in 2001.
In 2017, Beast Epic, Iron & Wine's fourth album of new material for Sub Pop and its sixth overall, recasts soft power as a series of vignettes, observations and regular old songs that redeem through joy and a certain expectation of grace.
Even the instant classic, ''Bitter Truth'', with a lyric as pained and direct as any I've heard from Iron & Wine, is leavened with background vocals recalling The Jordanaires. Sam Beam has called Beast Epic his ''most personal'' album to date. It is the first Iron & Wine album that he's produced since The Creek Drank The Cradle, though the results are vastly different. This album brims with surprise flourishes, classic touches and an appealing confidence that is evident on songs like ''Call It Dreaming.''
After a decade and a half of prodigious expression and exploration, recording as both Iron & Wine and eponymously, Sam Beam confessed that he has finally figured out how to make records. He had me fooled all along.
Beast Epic will be available worldwide through Sub Pop Records. It's my favorite Iron & Wine album by a mile.
- Jonathan Poneman