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Nostalgia, Celebration, and Poetry: Iron and Wine Speaks to the Human Experience in His New Album “Light Verse”

Tab Obuchowski
After a two-year break from music, Iron and Wine released “Light Verse” to re-enter the music scene with a lyrical focus, announcing a new tour for 2024.

This album contains explicit content.

“You can make gray and call it gold.” 

Setting the mood with nostalgic sounds of a rocking chair and guitar strings, this opening line from the song “You Never Know” lays the groundwork for the new album “Light Verse” released on April 26, 2024 by the indie folk singer-songwriter Samuel Ervin Beam, better known by his stage name “Iron and Wine.”

This album announced an upcoming tour for Iron and Wine, along with his band, to take off in the summer of 2024 and travel throughout the United States to share his talent. 

“Light Verse” is Iron and Wine’s comeback album, since the pandemic “completely paralyzed the songwriter in me,” he said when describing the release. 

He transitioned to solo acoustic performances in small venues before he could approach songwriting again, after being inspired on tour with Andrew Bird. Then, he was brought back to his joy: recording. Forming a band of musicians entirely from Los Angeles, they worked to bring life into his songs, eventually forming the album “Light Verse.”

This year, I started listening to Iron and Wine after recently becoming interested in folk-inspired music. His most popular songs like “Naked as We Came” and his cover of “Time after Time” quickly became favorites because they evoke a sense of familiarity and comfort within listeners.

The timbre of Iron and Wine’s voice, rough with an enveloping warmth, matched perfectly with the soft melodies and heartfelt lyrics, making his vocals feel like a serene summer’s day. His songs also encompass the feeling of being trapped in the winter slump, longing for spring. 

Within the ten tracks included in this album, Iron and Wine dances between the melancholy and somber moments looking back on life, but also the hope of continuing to live and finding the beauty in simple things, which highlights the duality and skill of Iron and Wine’s writing.

He offers perspective through a range of characters feeling heartbreak, moments of laughter, life events, and love, his tracks riddled with poetic wordplay and playful themes. 

The asterisks next to song titles highlight my personal favorites. 

1. You Never Know*

This song has a sweet lull to it, as if someone is singing you to sleep after a hard day. The lyrics provide consoling inspiration not to give up because “you never know” what might happen if you keep going. The introduction featured creaking sounds and simple plucked guitar notes. His emphasis on certain words, the change in rhythm, and the crescendo in the outro provide beautiful variety. The message of this song stays hopeful, tied to a very signature, cozy, folk feel. 

2. Anyone’s Game*

With a more upbeat, funky percussion arrangement and strong bass, “Anyone’s Game” makes you feel like bobbing along to the beat. The instrument sounds are so unique that it is difficult to pinpoint exactly what you’re hearing. Nearly the entire song is sung in harmony, so the melody sounds angelic. This song is perfect for listening to while driving cross-country on a road trip to a colorful, sunny destination. If you’re looking for a feel-good song, give “Anyone’s Game” a listen. 

3. All in Good Time

While Iron and Wine sings most of the tracks in his album, one song, “All in Good Time,” features the singer-songwriter Fiona Apple. She has received numerous awards and nominations including three grammy awards, two MTV Video Music Awards, and a Billboard Music Award. Because her voice shares a similar unique, rough texture, their voices complement each other perfectly and tell the story of a couple’s life experiences, falling in and out of love. 

4. Cutting it Close 

The opening lyrics, very explicit and honest, recount an uncomfortable but accessible and authentic story. The lyrics grapple with struggles of life, discussing dysfunctional relationships and confusion about where to go next. Such somber lyrics reflect on trivial difficulties, responding with a very despairing message disguised in calming melodies: “So it goes and it goes, It doesn’t matter but it’s cutting it close.”

5. Taken by Surprise* 

This story walks listeners through a codependent relationship where an ex-partner doesn’t allow closure, because after the relationship has ended, they continue to come back to it, rehashing old feelings. The main character says that he doesn’t “Get taken by surprise anymore,” seeming to accept the pain of their interactions. This track is very touching because everyone can relate to the struggle, whether it’s in noticing an ex-partner’s favorite book and being reminded of them or brushing an old scar and remembering the fall that made it.

6. Yellow Jacket 

In “Yellow Jacket,” Iron and Wine refers to the insect, as he talks about different beautiful aspects of nature that are slowly disappearing. The ending words are held out to emphasize them, giving a poetic feel and putting emotional weight on his examples. This forces the listener to slowly become aware of the fading things that bring subtle joy to life. 

“Get to know your yellow jacket by it’s sting”

“Let those bells ring themselves true” 

Iron and Wine prompts us to acknowledge and sit with the dissipation of life in nature and our own personal losses that we can often overlook. 

7. Sweet Talk*

“Sweet Talk” is probably the most upbeat song in this album, and the opening lyrics “who’s here, let’s dance” that is exactly what the rhythm prompts. This song celebrates a “wonderful life” and an overall appreciation for every moment. 

8. Tears that Don’t Matter*

This song gives a sense of melancholic nostalgia and the joy of reminiscing. The cadence of the musical phrases feels like holding your breath and then exhaling with relief, mimicking the experiences described in this song. He challenges us to live life to the fullest by comparing human experience to a lost and found, accumulating experiences and gathering small aspects of others to make them our own — the duality of sadness felt from losing an item and the sweet excitement of finding a new treasure.

“Look alive, don’t listen”

“Anything worth it is said in cold watеr”

This line is so breathtaking. You must be thrown into cold water, uncomfortable situations, in order to learn something meaningful. 

9. Bag of Cats 

Iron and Wine presents a cliché aphorism in a new and interesting way. He reminds us to live life without fear, “like life isn’t outside with its bag of cats.” The plucked notes and wind chimes feel like the comfort of sitting and playing cards in the company of a close friend when it’s late on a summer’s day but not quite dark yet. 

10. All our Angels go Home*

Wistful, this song feels like a bittersweet goodbye — like moving away or letting go even when it is painful:

“All us sons and daughters

Throw our stones in holy water

All our angels go home

All us friends and lovers

Take your clothes and show our colors

All our angels go home”

Inspired by his struggles during the pandemic, he highlights the heaviness of reality. 

“All our dreamers lose to the light”

This focus of mortality is powerful. Listening to these lyrics is cathartic because they are simple, yet incredibly effective. You can’t help but feel your emotions being pulled to the surface where they are undeniable. The strings section sounds like it was plucked from a movie score, with a minor key change during the bridge to hammer home an ethereal and transcendent feeling. 

“All our angels go home” is a good summary of the whole album. It’s a walk of life, the good and the bad. We’re all trying to make it home. 

There is so much hidden poetry hidden among these lyrics. It is easy to overlook his lyrics because of how pleasant the composition feels, but once you stop to process the meaning it is impossible to unhear them. I am still digesting the wisdom of “Light Verse” and probably will be for a while. Whether the title references the whimsicality of light verse poetry, or light universe as a play on “verse,” Iron and Wine encapsulates the imperfections of life while acknowledging that it is a precious gift.

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