By New Times
By Derek Askey
By Mark Deming
By Serene Dominic
By Jason Keil
By Robrt L. Pela and Amy Silverman
By Jeff Moses
By Serene Dominic
The two albums sturdily bearded Floridian film professor Sam Beam has released as Iron & Wine -- 2002's The Creek Drank the Cradle and the new Our Endless Numbered Days -- are the kind perfect for putting on when you've just performed some sacred ancient ritual in the woods and returned home to find your fur-clad lover carefully roasting a free-range rabbit on a spit in the fireplace. This is a rare quality, and one especially valuable in our age of slickster politicians, laser-guided missiles and Jackson-family nipple armor.
Yet what's remarkable about Beam's music -- I mean beyond its evocation of fur-clad lovers -- is that it doesn't sound like a retreat from our harsh world: Endless-but-hardly-endless songs like the gently hypnotic "Cinder and Smoke," which unflinchingly observes snakes in basements and mud-covered dogs in garden rows, don't burrow into a revisionist history replete with cozy log cabins and hearthside acoustic-guitar strumming; instead, like the filmmaker that he is, Beam lines his songs with seamy, haunting details you'll be surprised to find beneath such a lovely surface. Live, the effect is akin to gathering around a sturdily bearded storyteller in the middle of the woods.
Opener Holopaw -- a clean-shaven Floridian outfit centered on singer-songwriter John Orth, himself a member of Modest Mouse front man Isaac Brock's Ugly Casanova project -- doesn't quite muster an atmosphere as pungent as Beam's, but the group's self-titled debut from last year does trick out mushmouthed alt-country ramblings with bright-eyed brass bleats and digital doodles in a somewhat nifty way. Call it revisionist futurism if you like.