Iron & Wine’s fifth LP, Ghost on Ghost, embodies the principles of entering a golden state of mind with twelve new songs that spread good vibes from beginning to end. Handsomely bearded frontman Samuel Beam reels listeners in with a traditional folk opener, “Caught In The Briars,” followed by equally folksy “The Desert Babbler.”
Further down the track list, “Grace For Saints and Ramblers,” “Singers And The Endless Song,” and “Lovers’ Resolution” are all saturated with elements of jazz, with the addition of horns, violins, bass, and various other string instruments. Each song swings and sways to a groove of its own. It’s no bump and grind, but a dominant sexual energy forcefully floats through the speakers and possesses your body over the course of the record. (With consent, of course.)Ghost on Ghost manages to feel intimate without getting caught up in all the wrong moves.
There is a ton of variety on this album, but it all blends together effortlessly—Beam gives us a taste of folk, country, jazz, rhythm & blues, and even some disco. “Sundown (Back In The Briars)” even sprouts some African roots with its hollow drumbeats. Overall, the LP sounds like it comes straight from the ‘70s, which could potentially be problematic for younger listeners who aren’t familiar with this era of pop. (Speaking on behalf of children from the ‘90s, I had no issues with it.)
The only song reminiscent of good old-fashioned Iron & Wine — the one that everyone listens to alone in their bedroom on a vapidly miserable rainy day — is “Winter Prayers.” As Beam hauntingly “oohs” and “aahs” behind the gentle pluck of each guitar string, goose bumps will gradually appear on the surface of your skin. If not? You’re doing something wrong.
Don’t be fooled by the title, because “New Mexico’s No Breeze” feels like a gentle breeze in the midst of a hot and humid summer day, the sky wide open to reveal a radiant sun that sparkles and shines. “Baby Center Stage” carries this same temperament as it closes the LP, porch doors swinging shut, blowing in the wind.
Similar to a bottle of wine, Iron & Wine’s music only gets better with age. Beam continues to consistently grow as a person and his songwriting is a reflection of this development. Ghost on Ghost is a wonderful concoction of lush sounds that are aesthetically charming to say the least. It leaves you feeling warm and soaked in nostalgia, and that’s probably exactly what Beam intended.