Tuesday, November 28, 2006

“All dead white boys sing God is good”

#24 Our Endless Numbered Days, Iron & Wine, Sub Pop, 2004

After graduating from Duke in 2003, the summer was not kind to me. Unable to find any other job than Cato Research, I found myself as a postmodern Roy Rogers, “back in the cubicle again.” Though I could discuss Levinas’ ethics or debate the finer points of religious phenomenology, I was faced with long afternoons of data entry, phone answering, and fighting with the fax machine. Oh, and depression. But at least I had my own office, so I often took breaks (like the entire afternoon) to explore the world of music online. And that’s how I came across the beautiful, haunting, and bearded folk of Sam Beam. The same afternoon I read about Iron & Wine and heard some tracks, I took an afternoon errand break to ditch Cato and head over to CD Alley in Chapel Hill. I ended up purchasing The Creek Drank the Cradle LP and The Sea & The Rhythm EP and, from then on, I let Beam’s post-Christian, pre-modern melodies and gentle acoustic rhythms drench me practically every day.

But it wasn’t until 2004’s Our Endless Numbered Days that I realized Beam was beyond the real deal – he had tapped into something utterly transcendent. Days is, over the course of 12 tracks, a homily on death. “Naked As We Came” engages the fear of widowhood (“One of us will die inside these arms/eyes wide open/naked as we came/one will spread our ashes around the yard”). “Teeth in the Grass” turns the passion of young love into a prophecy for future passing: “When all tomorrow’s are gone there will be teeth in the grass.” On “Each Coming Night,” Beam creates a whispery sing-a-long so simple in its beauty that its poetry almost passes you by: “Will you say to me when I’m gone/your face has faded but lingers on/because light strikes a deal/with each coming night.” From the muted acoustic expectancy of “On Your Wings” all the way to the unbelievably profound “Passing Afternoon,” Beam channels the muse in a manner that is stupefying with each repeated listen. His earnest, soothing voice helped both Sarah and I cope with the death of a family friend in the spring of 2004, and that’s another reason this record is momentous for me. It seems that if you let a man grow a beard, profound things are bound to happen.


Lucky Strikes said...


I will certainly check this disc out...I've heard good things about Iron.
Back to back uses of "sing-a-long". We've reached our quota...

Country Roads said...

interesting comments. your description made me interested in checking this guy out and also encouraged me to keep my beard.

ATrain said...

Brandon at Cincinnati's Shake It records in September 2006:
"What? Someone put "Our Endless Numbered Days" in the used bin? That album's so good I can't even listen to it."

Papa Shoegaze said...

'I'm surpised Iron and Wine is so high up - maybe because it's so recent'? i know why. that panning across the table reminds me exactly of your childhood home... 'richmond in '49'.