Credit: Warner Bros.
Iron & Wine released its new album's first single, “Walking Far From Home,” on Black Friday, as part of a vinyl/CD single that went out as part of Record Store Day, Christmas Edition. The song was accompanied by two other new tracks, "Summer in Savannah" and "Biting Your Tail," neither of which are slated to be released on "Kiss Each Other Clean" come January.
In the beginning of the track, Sam Beam’s vocals sound as though he recorded them in a Progresso soup can microphone, with the waves transmitted to a spare closet somewhere and exposing Beam’s typical vulnerability.
And talk about a road song. As is Iron & Wine’s tendency, the song’s lyrical subjects seem to have cosmic consequence and meaning, God-is-in-everything kind of approach to sickness, lovers, children, highways, strangers, dancers and every other I-Spy from the bus windows.
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The killer catch about this first single is that it is its own chorus – or simply, there is no chorus at all. Electronics huff out calliope sounds after nine or so takes on the same melody. Around 3:15, a distorted synth gives way the feral beats of passive percussion – jingle bells, tambourines, hand drums. Dissonant harmonies follow, finding their way back to the top of the revolution. The same revolution, over and over.
But there is no other structure than “start” and “end,” with Beam reaching the climax not through the traditional “breakdown” or revamped chorus, but half-timing the melody toward the end and then giving the stage to loads of noise.
It’s somewhat appropriate for the season, and Warner Bros./4AD must’ve known that. Jingle bells aren’t the only nostalgic trigger in “Walking Far From Home”: its lyrics sound off like a wistful recap of the year, which could’ve been any of ours.
And I can’t call it lazy, regardless of its single-note, linear melody. It reminds me of Sufjan Stevens’ need to make anything other than a song with banjo and voice, hence “Age of Adz.” Well played, even if the long-player doesn’t sound just like it.