Sunday, October 11, 2009

Introduction to the Music Decade List and #25: Iron & Wine - Our Endless Numbered Days

Without the Internet, there is a almost certain probability that this list would have never materialized, or been much different than the actual product. 2000 was the heyday of Napster and led to the file-sharing revolution of the last decade. The Internet allowed someone like myself access and knowledge to artists that I would have never known of living in a place like Binghamton. There are not too many people in this town who know much about music and if there are some that do, I don't know them. It's really only because of what Napster brought as well as blogs like Stereogum and An Aquarium Drunkard that I've been able to get into so many different artists. At the start of this decade, my tastes ran almost exclusively towards classic rock and Jamband acts. My interest in both has severely diminished over the past decade and I consider myself a much more knowledgeable listener. But that doesn't mean that I'm any more of an authority over someone who has more of a interest in hip-hop or metal, two genres I have never had any interest in. So, this list isn't meant to be some hipness barometer like Pitchfork would put together, nor is it meant to be any definitive documentation of the decade. These are just the 25 records that are my favorite of the last ten years. Ten years from now, this list could completely be different; right now, it's just what I think right now.

#25) Iron & Wine - Our Endless Numbered Days (2004)

The release of Our Endless Numbered Days happened around the same time Sam Beam went from a little-known but respected artist to the top of the indie mountain all because of a song that isn't even on this album. Zach Braff's Garden State may have come out after this album but most people, like myself, only happened to pay more attention to Iron & Wine because of "Such Great Heights." I may have had The Creek Drank the Cradle before this album but I can't remember exactly. What puts Our Endless Numbered Days ahead of that album for me is that is Beam's first professional and cleaner yet just as intimate sounding album. While some may find the lo-fi, home recordings of his debut, the cleaner, fuller sound of Our Endless Numbered Days does so much more to enhance the material. The addition of additional instruments and vocal tracking makes Beam's songs much more full and appealing while never losing the intensity and introspective nature of his debut. The collection of songs on the album from top to bottom is the strongest in Beam's catalog. Most of the songs still have a plaintive quality to them but with the addition of bluesy shuffle on songs like "Free Until They Cut Me Down" and "Teeth in the Grass." But it's still the intimate nature of the more somber songs that are the album's strongest moments, whether it's the simple guitar and vocals of "Sunset Soon Forgotten" or the bit more elaborate but spectacular "Sodom, South Georgia." Our Endless Numbered Days has been the Iron & Wine album that has captured my attention the most over the past decade While Beam has expanded his sound to include ambient and African-influenced sounds, it's still the mostly straightforward folk music of this album that appeals to me the most.

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