Ghost on Ghost Iron and Wine 4AD/Remote Control ★★★ ✩
THE brilliant stop-motion video for the song Joy from this album was posted randomly on Twitter with the message: ‘‘ Let this brighten your day.’’ It certainly did. As utterly gorgeous as the video is, with its flower stalks and butterflies superimposed with the glowing, flickering image of a beautiful woman, it was the music that spoke loudest. The tender high tenor vocal, roughly in Paul McCartney’s range, the beautiful harmonies and the delicate lyric, along with jazz chords and a 1970s lite-rock feel, seemed at once nostalgic and entirely new. ‘‘ Deep inside the heart of this troubled man,’’ Joy begins, ‘‘ there’s an itty bitty boy tugging at your hand.’’ Iron and Wine is the stage name for one-time one-man-band Samuel Beam, who recently has begun to use full bands in the recordings of his original songs. Ghost on
Ghost is his fifth studio album. It presents quite a canvas to explore. The ghosts of artists such as America and Kenny Loggins run through the record like wild horses. Though the production style is certainly influenced by the records of the 70s, it updates it with better clarity, greater vocal presence and much more imaginative instrumentation. More than one song is festooned with vibraphone running through it like a vine.
Ghost on Ghost has strong rhythms, such as the jazz shuffle of the opener, Caught in the Briar, which also features a great horn section and a wicked tempo change near the end. Singers and
the Endless Song is downright funky, while the very short Sundown bursts with multiplied ‘‘ pa pa’’ vocal snippets, like the Ray Conniff Singers on acid. The tenderness of Joy is revisited on Winter
Prayers, but this time in piano mode.