The Shepherd's Dog
Iron & Wine
25 September 2007
Iron & Wine's newest album, The Shepherd's Dog, brings a lot to the table. The brainchild of Sam Beam, it's loaded with meditative masterpieces.
Continuing a trend of cryptic lyricism, I&W's tracks are nearly impossible to decipher, but Beam's unique voice makes up for this problem. Most artists leave their songs up to personal translation anyway, so this intentionally included "detriment" doesn't take away from the album in the least.
The Shepherd's Dog is an enigma in that, despite its trance-like tempo, the countless number of sounds he utilizes gives each track a sense of intensity. Beam puts emotion into every song, enough so that I can't consider even a single one of the 12 tracks as filler.
The instruments are definitely the highlight of The Shepherd's Dog. Everything from the piano to the woodwinds to the vast array of percussion tools is utilized to a perfect intermixing of sounds, creating the harmony that has become the trademark of Iron & Wine.
"The Resurrection Fern" and "Boy With a Coin" are perfect examples of the best of I&W. Both implement beautiful instrumentals, vocals and passion, and both are songs that I consider the best of the album.
One aspect that I noticed in Dog was Beam's repeated usage of three verse songwriting, in which all three similar stanzas display three different images to the listener. "Boy With a Coin", "White Tooth Man", "Love Song of the Buzzard", "Wolves (Song of the Shepherd's Dog)", and "Peace Beneath the City" all follow this specific pattern.
Overall, I was hugely impressed with the ability of Iron & Wine to implement to perfection so many instruments into their music at once. Together, they blend to make a sound not heard from any of its contemporaries. Other than the cryptic lyrics, I really have no major complaint with this album.
--Robert Langellier (aka Cardsox)