It’s getting dangerously close to the end of the year, and I swear, if I listened to one EP this year, I listened to a thousand. I can’t say for sure if it was a good year for singles, but it happened to be a particularly abundant one. Many great artists have contributed one-off b-side fodder, while newbies have entered the field with shorter sets of fantastic tunes. Chalk it up to the indie rocker tendency to obsess over seven-inches and rarities, but 2004 was all about the EP. But it was also all about Iron & Wine. And as it just so happens, Sam Beam has graced us with an EP just in time for the holiday season.
“Passing Afternoon” is Beam’s newest single, though it’s doubtful that anyone ever truly considered Iron & Wine a singles artist. And though the final track on I&W’s Our Endless Numbered Days seems an odd choice, it stands out well on its own and is a breathtaking track, whether singled out or in the context of the album. It’s one of Iron & Wine’s most layered tracks, featuring drums, guitar and piano, which lends a slight amount of polish and production to the otherwise stripped-down performer.
Additionally, the EP features two b-sides, which are clearly the reason why most will seek this release out. Both tracks are new, but one is a studio recording, while the other is recorded from an on-air session at Santa Monica public radio legend, KCRW. The radio session track, “Dearest Forsaken” sounds good enough to fool anyone into believing Beam didn’t record it himself. Two dueling guitars make this song standout, one of Beam’s more blues-leaning songs, sure to be a hoedown in live sets for sure.
The studio track, “Communion Cups and Someone’s Coat,” (all two minutes of it) is the best reason I can see for getting a copy of this EP. It’s simple and short, but easily one of Iron & Wine’s most beautiful songs. How this never made it to an album, I’ll never understand.
This EP is short (less than ten minutes), but I see no compelling argument not to obtain more releases by this talented Floridian. And if this isn’t enough to quench your folky thirst for a while, he’s got another one coming out in the Spring. And if you haven’t heard it already, check out the live duet of “New Slang” Beam did with James Mercer of the Shins. It’s awesome.
Sufjan Stevens – The Dress Looks Nice On You 7″
Elliott Smith – Needle in the Hay 7″
Iron & Wine – The Sea and the Rhythm