Iron & Wine’s ‘Weed Garden’ EP is an effortless treasure
Ethan Utley | Thursday, September 20, 2018
Iron & Wine is an indie folk pseudonym for singer-songwriter Samuel Beam. Over six studio albums and several more EPs, Iron & Wine has demonstrated poetic and harmonic perfection. It is the type of music you might find yourself listening to in times of great happiness and great sorrow. The blend of nostalgia and bliss is unparalleled among current artists. Even the name of the act evokes a double nature feel: the apathy of iron united with the warmth of wine.
Samuel Beam was raised in Chapin, South Carolina, and the tone of his songwriting is pertinent to this origin. His albums deliver the trivialities of youth hand-in-hand with the wonder of the world. Furthermore, his roots in folk bring the listener to a simpler, happier time.
Beam’s latest release as Iron & Wine is “Weed Garden.” The title of this release points to the contradictory tones often found in his music: leaving a garden to grow freely with plants which people remove makes something beautiful. His poetic inclination on this EP takes advice from Cat Stevens, preaching about life and love.
The EP is six tracks long, lasting only twenty minutes total. The overall motif of the music is very happy and calm, yet the lyrics of each track usually give us something a bit more difficult to swallow. Beam always writes lyrics steeped in metaphors, and many times the meaning becomes a little different every time you listen.
The most popular track is called “Waves of Galveston.” The song begins with two guitars and Sam Beam’s beautiful vocals; a common combination for Iron & Wine. A bass and tambourine enter a little later, however the main focus remains on vocals. It’s a really good song, and the chorus is awfully catchy. “Waves of Galveston” revolves around a small town in Texas where life seems to waste away and nothing really changes. The track comes as a nostalgic yearning for the old days, a somber cry for better days.
The next track, “Milkweed,” reveals the struggling heart of Sam Beam in regards to his transition from Christianity to agnosticism. One of the lines details Sam’s agnostic views fairly well, as he writes “God of the dollars, a god of fear / The guns on the TV really get you / Kiss me again in a street light coming on.” This line is meant to show how he believes God is but a name, yet there is definitely something out there. People praise anything from wealth to fear, but when a personal experience touches you out of pure chance, God is the most real.
“Autumn Town Leaves” follows and is certainly the prettiest track on the project. Again, we are given two guitars playing off of Sam’s vocals and a very toned-down bass drum and bass guitar. This song doesn’t present us with the sad and difficult lyrics so common to Sam’s writing, as the music and lyrics are both happily reassuring. My favorite line of the album comes from this song: “songbirds only end up where they’re going.” It’s a calming lyric and reminds us that everything happens for a reason; we’re exactly where we are supposed to be. The remaining lyrics are a poetic praise of nature, with its changing seasons and warm emotions.
Iron & Wine’s new EP is a grand portrayal of Sam Beam’s poetic mastery. I will leave you with the one line that best summarizes the advice of the album. The final track, “Talking to Fog,“ opens with “This is our surrender to the garden, to the weeds, all our stars are turning back to stone.”
Artist: Iron & Wine
EP: Weed Garden
Label: Sub Pop Records
Favorite Track: “Autumn Town Leaves”
If You Like: Cat Stevens, Sufjan Stevens, Fleet Foxes
Shamrocks: 4.5 out of 5